Curiosity has Landed

NASA - Curiosity's Heat Shield in View
Doug, the really nice barista at my favorite coffee shop, was chatting me up today about the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), better known as Curiosity. We agreed that the entire landing affair was stunning, and the photos being sent back are nothing short of inspirational. I particularly liked the photo from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of the parachute deployed on Curiosity.

The interaction got me thinking about the social impact of big news events in science. One curious aspect of the MSL landing (to me at least) has been the online and social networking presence, which I've not really seen in a NASA mission before to this extent. Sure, more traditional media played a large part in the popularity of this landing, but Twitter seemed to be the place du jour to spectate. In fact, Curiosity has its own official Twitter feed, and a less official but perhaps more insightful one as well.

Engineers, NASA interns, space buffs, news outlets... everyone seemed to be Tweeting about this plucky robot. Now, people like me are discussing the discussion (so meta), hoping that it signifies a new era of public outreach/interaction, and driving more suckers inspired youths to study science.

So I thought it would be cool to look back at the trend of Tweets mentioning the landing, using the simple analytics tool from Topsy Labs. Ignoring the bizarre horizontal axis tick spacing, it's fascinating to see the "shape" the event takes: a strong ramp up for a couple days before the landing (Aug 5, if that's not blazingly clear), a sharp declining interest the day after, and a long tail, the latter no doubt filled with pithy humor.
Chart from Topsy Labs
Mars is so cool... bydhttmwfi

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