Followers Embrace Curiosity's Mars Tweets

The Mars rover Curiosity is exploring the surface of the Red Planet in the Gale Crater, and it is also tweeting about its mission. The rover has a distinct personality, albeit one made by the strokes on a keyboard from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, at the same time that Adam Steltzner's team was waiting for news from Curiosity, tens of thousands of people around the world were waiting for some news from the rover's own Twitter feed. One week after landing, nearly 900,000 followers are getting to know the unique personality of Mars Curiosity. That's the rover's name on Twitter.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here are a couple of Curiosity's tweets so far: You asked for pics from my trip, here you go: my first look of many to come of my new home, Mars.

INSKEEP: And, well, looky here: I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale Crater.

MONTAGNE: Well, since the rover has its own voice and personality on Twitter, we thought it would be fun to give Curiosity an actual voice. So we've been playing around with a computer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It once was one small step, now it's six big wheels.

INSKEEP: Or maybe you imagine a female rover.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It once was one small step, now it's six big wheels.

MONTAGNE: Three women from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena here in California are responsible for the rover's Twitter thoughts. And to them, the rover is a she. One of them, Stephanie Smith, says Curiosity has a distinct character.

STEPHANIE SMITH: Thinking about her as the most advanced, biggest, most complex robot Earth has ever sent to the surface of another planet, and she's got a rock vaporizing laser on her head, I think she's got some well-earned bravada.

INSKEEP: And, of course, if a rover starts tweeting from Mars, you want to ask a question. Questions to Curiosity are being tweeted from all over the world, and they cover everything from the ridiculous to extremely detailed science questions. NASA's Smith explains.

SMITH: We want to be engaging. We want to be surprising. And if we get a laugh and a chuckle out of someone, that's marvelous, but it never trumps the fact that we're trying to share the real science and engineering of this mission.

MONTAGNE: Along with questions from school children, science enthusiasts and those who just stumble upon the feed, the rover also has some celebrity followers.

INSKEEP: Big Bird, Elmo and William Shatner, also known as "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk - not to mention the Priceline guy. Stephanie Smith says despite having boldly gone where no man had gone before, Shatner wrote to Curiosity wondering if a particular tweet was directed at him.

SMITH: Bill - if I can be that familiar - was afraid that perhaps the rover was making fun of him with our seven minutes of terror tweet that apparently read to him in his own cadence.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Entering Mars atmosphere. Seven minutes of terror starts now.

MONTAGNE: You can keep up with the mission. You can follow the adventures of the rover via the Twitter handle @marscuriosity.

INSKEEP: I didn't think of that as William Shatner's cadence, but maybe he thinks he acts like that. I don't know.

MONTAGNE: I didn't either.

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