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A star is born: Mars rover Curiosity has legions of fans all a-Twitter

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity began tweeting to avid followers years before it dramatically landed on the surface of Mars. But the number of its followers just skyrocketed.

By Staff Writer / August 6, 2012

An image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance orbiter, capturing the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide parachute as it descended towards its landing site at Gale Crater on August 5.

Courtesy of NASA/Reuters

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Meet Mars’s most charming resident: the NASA’s Rover Curiosity.

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How do we know it’s charming? As the Rover Curiosity touched down on Mars early Monday morning, the Mini Cooper-sized crawler let its Twitter fans around the world follow its descent to the Red Planet with a stream of lively tweets that sought to put a human face on a scientific quest.
 
“I'm safely on the surface of Mars,” Curiosity said. “GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!”
 
The images sent back from Mars – always stunning in an understated, literally otherworldly kind of way – are delivered with a smile by the cheery Curiosity.
 
“No photo or it didn't happen? Well lookee here, I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale crater,” it tweeted with this attached image.

The six-wheeled rover even shed some light on what its human friends were doing back in NASA mission control as it was working hard not to obliterate itself on Mars’s surface. That is, cracking open jars of goobers.
 
“Pass the Peanuts! Everyone's eating peanuts, right?” Curiosity said from millions of miles into space. “They're an [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] good-luck tradition since Ranger 7 in 1964.”

OK OK, you say, Curiosity isn’t REALLY tweeting for itself. That falls to a team of three individuals hammering away at several social media accounts just a five minute walk south of NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs mission control in Pasadena, Calif. 
The group has been active since Nov. 2008, when the rover was "WAY cool, nearly built" but "need[ed] a name," in the words of its first tweet. It's been a non-stop three days for the team, said news and social media manager Veronica McGregor. They've boomed from 150,000 Twitter followers on Saturday to nearly 700,000 on Monday evening.That's in exchange for the group running on a grand total of six hours sleep – combined. 

But Curiosity isn’t just a one-dimensional producer of tweets. No, no – it reads, too. The rover follows a cast of physicists, astronauts (Buzz Aldrin and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona) and friends and colleagues at NASA.

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