Curiosity Lauded By Smithsonian, South by Southwest

Wired4Space photo of NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity during pre-flight checks at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert / Wired4Space
The NASA team behind the Mars Science Laboratory rover has received an award acknowledging its social media efforts and will receive another award for their accomplishments on sending the one-ton rover to the surface of Mars. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert / Wired4Space

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” has received nods for social media efforts conducted by the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as well as for its accomplishments traveling to and landing on the surface of the Red Planet. The awards come from the Smithsonian as well as South by Southwest (SXSW) and draw attention to how the rover made history during its 35 million mile journey to the fourth planet from our Sun.

SXSW is an interactive festival held in Austin, Texas. Last night, Curiosity won an award for her and her team’s social media efforts. Curiosity “tweeted,” posted on Facebook, sent video back to Earth via Ustream, and conducted the first “check-in” from the surface of another world via Foursquare. This garnered the six-wheeled, one-ton rover SXSW’s Interactive Award for best social media campaign.

Curiosity has an online following that would be the envy of many, with more than a million followers currently tuning in to what she has to say from her dusty new home. However, Curiosity had a fan base well before she rode an Atlas V rocket into the Florida skies back in November 2011. Fans have followed her progress all the way back to when she was first being assembled. To date, Curiosity’s Facebook page has more than 500,000 “likes.”

Including streaming live video, interested people could watch as Curiosity was assembled, tested, launched, and arrived at her destination. NASA has expressed its intent as providing the public with the feeling of “being there.” It would appear that their efforts paid off.

As Curiosity was unable to attend, JPL’s Veronica McGregor, Courtney O’Connor, and Stephanie L. Smith accepted on her behalf. These are some of the people behind the rover’s social media campaign.

“Our goal is to communicate the news of our missions to the widest possible audiences via multiple methods,” said McGregor. “With social media platforms, we can deliver information nearly every day and respond to questions quickly. The real joy is seeing comments from people who say this is the first time they’ve followed a NASA mission so closely, and how it has increased their interest in and excitement about space exploration.”

SXSW Interactive Awards is designed to highlight emerging trends in various forms of technology. It was originally known as the SXSW Web Awards and was first held in 1997.

While SXSW honored Curiosity’s social media efforts, the Smithsonian has awarded JPL the Trophy for Current Achievement for JPL’s achievements on MSL, the top group honor. The team will receive that award at a black tie affair held at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., April 24.

The Current Achievement award is among the highest presented by the Smithsonian. It and the lifetime achievement award are given to recipients who have achieved accomplishments in fields relating to aerospace science and technology and their history.

Curiosity and her suite of ten scientific instruments were sent to Mars to study if the Red Planet was once or possibly is now capable of supporting microbial life. Researchers felt that Gale Crater and the prominent Mt. Sharp would be a prime location, and this has since become the rover’s new home.

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