@MarsPhoenix is a twitter success story. It’s also a NASA success story. Oh and also a scientific success for all it has done on Mars. As six months of night approach, the Phoenix probe was slowly shutting down systems to finish analyses. A couple of days ago, a dust storm diminished the day time charging cycle enough that it caused the lander to go into hibernation. NASA is going to try to revive the it this weekend, but the prospects are grim. Even more grim are the chances that the probe will awake come spring. Temperatures at the Martian poles go so low in the winter, they exceed the minimum tolerance for electrical circuits.
But back to the Twitter success story. As of right now, @MarsPhoenix has 37,284 followers. That makes it one of the most followed users on Twitter. For the past few months, NASA has been posting updates posing as the probe. The updates take the form of first-person snippets of information and answers to questions from users. Overall, it has been great PR, keeping people up-to-date on space exploration in a completely new way. We can’t exactly have a live feed from Mars, but by personifying the probe and getting people involved, NASA has really done a lot for improving public involvement in the mission.
NASA has expanded their twittering to a whole host of other missions. Most notable (to me) amongst them are the Cassini probe (which is orbiting Saturn), the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. So if you twitter, they might be worth some of your time.
@MarsPhoenix posted the following earlier today:
I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I’ll be humankind’s monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me ;-)
In honor of its imminent passing, Wired is running a contest to find the best epitaph for Phoenix. My current favorite is: ”Every robotic lander dies. Not every robotic lander truly lives.” I’m getting a little choked up..