As if you didn’t already assume that this was the case, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is the Mayor of Mars. Or, at least, it soon will be.
You’d think that, for a planet essentially devoid of life – at least to the best of our knowledge – that there wouldn’t be much need for political structures or elections on Mars, but it turns out that Curiosity isn’t interested in that kind of thing anyway. Instead, the Mars Rover that’s busily mapping new areas of the infamous “red planet” halfway across the galaxy is spending its leisure time on social media instead, and has signed up for Foursquare, “checking in” from locations across Mars as it goes about its daily journeys. Its new pasttime was revealed as the Curiosity Rover shared a photo of its shadow on the service of the planet, with the caption “One check-in closer to being Mayor of Mars!” earlier today.
It’s easy to see the partnership between NASA and Foursquare in cynical terms, with the latter social media company cashing in on interest in the historic mission of the Mars Rover which has generated far more headlines and column inches since its arrival on Mars than Foursquare has managed in recent months, but there’s something about the way in which it democratizes the space mission and allows a whole new audience to keep track of its progress that I find really exciting.
Especially enjoyable is the fact that the Rover’s Foursquare account not only includes different check-ins across Mars, but it also includes tips for those who may be interested in visiting Mars in future, just as it would for any other location. For those interested, Mars is “cold, dry and rocky,” and things to consider bringing should you visit include “extra moisturizer and sturdy shoes… plus oxygen for those of you who breathe.” Who knew that Rover would be so speciesist?
According to NASA’s Courtney O’Connor, a scoial media specialist for the organization who’s in charge of the Rover’s operations, NASA “worked closely with Foursquare on this, it was a joint intiative.” The Rover isn’t just limiting itself to Foursquare; it’s also present on both Twitter and Facebook, with O’Connor saying that social media is “a great way to keep [the] public engaged” with the Rover’s progress. “The rover is on a two-year mission,” O’Connor explained, “We don’t even know what [social networks] people will be using in two years. It’s exciting to think about the different platforms people will be joining.”
O’Connor wouldn’t be drawn on future platforms that the Rover may join, although did admit that “we’re exploring all these options,” and adding that “we’d love the idea of a Mars filter on Instagram, though.”