04 August 2012 1460 Views

Mars Goes Social Leading Up To Rover Landing

by Dan Koelsch

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission will hit a key moment tomorrow night at 10:30 PM PDT, when the Curiosity rover (which is the size of a MINI Cooper) lands on the planet’s surface. The last two rovers to hit Mars, in 2004, got national attention when they lasted way past their life expectancy (in fact, one is still functional). NASA is looking to build on that popularity by making Curiosity go social, including talking to popular astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson this afternoon. Details after the break.

You might be surprised to learn that NASA’s annual budget of almost $18 billion is less than half of a percent (.48%) of the total Federal budget. With plenty of people shouting for NASA to close its doors in this tough economy, the space program has been trying to gain favor over the years by appealing to the masses. Since Mars is a popular subject, Curiosity seems to be the perfect name for the newest rover. NASA has provided the mission and rover with a Twitter and Facebook, where it speaks in the first person. There’s even a free Xbox Kinect game where you can try your hand at the rover’s complicated landing procedure.

Dr. Tyson, who has gained much of his popularity on the Internet through viral videos and memes, has gotten in on the action as well. Not only did he recently tweet about what the Olympics would be like on Mars, he even talked to Curiosity directly this afternoon in a pretty funny and informative exchange.



Check out NASA TV to learn more about Curiosity and watch the landing live.



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