National News

Mars Curiosity: Meet the women behind the Twitter feed @MarsCuriosity

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hundreds of thousands of people have been following Curiosity's "comments," tweeted by the Mars rover -- with some help from its human friends. Meet the team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who specialize in out-of-this-world tweets.

With such an important mission for Curiosity, when is there time to break from roving Mars to catch up with the latest tweets?

The truth is, Curiosity has some help -- a lot of help.

Meet Veronica McGregor, JPL's social media manager, and her assistants, Courtney and Stephanie. Together they are the collective voice behind Curiosity, keeping their now hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers in the loop with the Mars rover's latest findings on the Red Planet.

"We're getting a lot of questions about the images," said McGregor. "We get a lot of questions about, 'What's the temperature for the rover right now on Mars?' 'How long can the rover operate?'"

When Curiosity landed on Mars on August 5, the team of social media mavens was quick to set the record straight by tweeting on Curiosity's behalf: "Area 51? No, Quad 51 is where I landed on Mars. ... (PS - I come in peace)."

After Monday's surprise call from President Obama, Curiosity's team was anxious to spread the news via Twitter: "Interplanetary fist bump: @whitehouse called to congratulate my team today."

"It's not just people who are self-professed space tweeps or space geeks, it's everybody," said Stephanie Smith, one of McGregor's assistants.

Curiosity's social media team says the Twitter messages not only entertain, they bring people closer to science.

"We speak with the engineers and the scientists on a daily basis, we are following their status updates, we're posting photos and images from the missions," said Courtney O'Connor, McGregor's other assistant.

Although Curiosity seems to be blowing up the "Twitterverse," she's not exactly breaking new ground. Her predecessors Spirit, Opportunity and Phoenix tweeted too.

But it seems Curiosity might be the most popular.

"As of this afternoon, we're just shy of 1 million followers, so we're waiting on that odometer to roll over, and it'll be a big moment for the team. We're very excited," said Stephanie. "The last time I checked, Ashton Kutcher hadn't been to the surface of another planet, so we've got that going for us."

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technology, twitter, nasa, national news, leslie miller
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