NASA's outreach efforts around rover landings capture new attention
Among the most popular videos on YouTube in 2012 there was music, an angry dad and even a guy jumping out of a space capsule. But among the hits, was an 11-minute, animated depiction of what it was like for the Mars Curiosity rover to land on Mars.
When NASA first landed a man on the moon, an estimated 500 million people worldwide watched on television.
Decades later, with the shuttle program was canceled, and manned space flight just about abandoned in the United States, a lot of Americans feel that NASA lost its mojo.
Space, it turns out, is a great place to park communications satellites, but in an era of fiscal cliffs, budget cuts, and tax battles, NASA leaders are having a tough time justifying the expense of an interplanetary mission.
So, when the Mars Curiosity rover landed on the fourth planet from the sun, last year, the journey was a public relations opportunity as much as a scientific one.
Curiosity launched with its own Twitter feed, @MarsCuriosity, and announced its own entry into the Martian atmosphere.
"I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!" the Rover, or rather NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory social media team, tweeted.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans watched that heart-stopping descent via their computers and NASA TV. Or, at least, they believed they did.
NASA has used animation to explain missions since the 1960s, but it outdid itself for Curiosity, hiring an animation studio to produce a Hollywood-grade video of the spacecraft’s journey. It was an 11-minute movie that quickly became a hit. It's garnered nearly 3 million views since June, when it was posted on YouTube.
The animators, Bohemian Grey, borrowed a few tips from Pixar’s WALL-E to make a robot lovable.
Can YouTube mint NASA a new generation of space buffs?
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