I love the Curiosity Rover, and unconverged Comms at NASA

Here at the secret moun­tain lab­o­ra­to­ry of Green­peace Inter­na­tion­al, we set out some time ago to inte­grate our dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions with our tra­di­tion­al chan­nels. I’d set up a “web team” back in the ear­ly 00s which orig­i­nal­ly had a mis­sion of sling­ing HTML onto a web­site, but which over the years had become respon­si­ble for our YouTube chan­nel, social media, online pho­tos, the press sec­tion at www.greenpeace.org, and even­tu­al­ly all things “on the inter­net” — despite the fact that we had a video unit, a press desk, a pho­to desk — all doing dis­tri­b­u­tion by tra­di­tion­al chan­nels. When Inge Wal­lage came on as our Comms Direc­tor, she spot­ted the fact that it was time to con­verge: dig­i­tal was no longer the back­room add-on, it was an inte­gral part of all our com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

This is prob­a­bly a com­mon phe­nom in the evo­lu­tion of many com­mu­ni­ca­tion depart­ments over the last decade, but every now and then I see evi­dence of that old left-hand right-hand prob­lem where you can real­ly tell that one part of an organ­i­sa­tion just didn’t get the memo that it’s 2012.

Take NASA. I am so in love with who­ev­er is tweet­ing on behalf of the @MarsCuriosty rover, cur­rent­ly my favorite inan­i­mate object on twit­ter. (Though I’m also high­ly appre­cia­tive of The Fake iTunes 10 icon, and @MyToaster).

Who wouldn’t love the cheeky, clued up vibe com­ing from the Mar­tian sur­face?

Today’s wake up song: “Dig­ging in the Dirt” by Peter Gabriel. Because no song says “Dig­ging in the Regolith.” <sigh>
Curios­i­ty Rover

A River Ran Through It. I found evi­dence of an ancient streambed on Mars, sim­i­lar to some on Earth http://t.co/wfbpp7BW
Curios­i­ty Rover

Road trip! I cov­ered 32 meters of open Mar­tian road yes­ter­day (sol 38). Every long dri­ve needs a sound­track. Any sug­ges­tions?
Curios­i­ty Rover

Sad­ly, the one I thought the best was actu­al­ly from a par­o­dy account, now closed:

Nasa just upgrad­ed me to IOS 6 — appar­ent­ly I’m in Nor­way.”

Yes­ter­day we get the news that our intre­pid trav­el­er became the MAYOR OF MARS ON FOURSQUARE!!! I just find that bril­liant and awe­some, and I see the news spread­ing on Twit­ter faster than a dust storm on Pho­bos.

Of course, the younger folks at JPL and NASA knew it was news, so I imag­ine some­one woke up a press offi­cer in NASA’s tra­di­tion­al media depart­ment and care­ful­ly explained what Foursquare was so the Space Agen­cy could issue this release:

NASA’S Curios­i­ty Rover Checks-In on Mars Using Foursquare

WASHINGTONNASA’s Curios­i­ty Mars rover checked in on Mars Wednes­day using the mobile appli­ca­tion Foursquare. This marks the first check-in on anoth­er plan­et. Users on Foursquare can keep up with Curios­i­ty as the rover checks in at key loca­tions and posts pho­tos and tips, all while explor­ing the Red Plan­et.

NASA is using Foursquare as a tool to share the rover’s new loca­tions while explor­ing Mars,” said David Weaver, asso­ciate admin­is­tra­tor for com­mu­ni­ca­tions at NASA Head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton. “This will help to involve the pub­lic with the mis­sion and give them a sense of the rover’s trav­els through Gale Crater.”

After land­ing in Gale Crater last mon­th, Curios­i­ty began a planned 23-mon­th mis­sion that includes some of Mars’ most intrigu­ing sci­en­tific des­ti­na­tions. Curios­i­ty is rov­ing toward Mount Sharp, a moun­tain about 3 miles (5 kilo­me­ters) tall. The rover is con­duct­ing exper­i­ments along the way, seek­ing clues in the rocks and soil that would indi­cate whether Mars ever was capa­ble of sup­port­ing micro­bial life. It is tak­ing and shar­ing pic­tures of the trip.

Back here on Earth, Foursquare users will be able to earn a Curios­i­ty-themed badge on the social media plat­form for check-ins at loca­tions that gen­er­ate an inter­est in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics. Avail­able late this year, this new badge will encour­age Foursquare users to explore sci­ence cen­ters, lab­o­ra­to­ries and muse­ums that pique sci­en­tific curios­i­ty.

NASA has been on Foursquare since 2010 through a strate­gic part­ner­ship with the plat­form. This part­ner­ship, launched with astro­naut Doug Wheelock’s first-ever check-in from the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion, has allowed users to con­nect with NASA and enabled them to explore the uni­verse and re-dis­cov­er Earth.

The part­ner­ship launched the NASA Explor­er badge for Foursquare users, encour­ag­ing them to explore NASA-relat­ed loca­tions across the coun­try. It also includ­ed the launch of a NASA Foursquare page, where the agen­cy pro­vides offi­cial tips and infor­ma­tion about the nation’s space pro­gram.

The Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­to­ry (JPL) man­ages the Mars Sci­ence Lab­o­ra­to­ry mis­sion and its Curios­i­ty rover for NASA’s Sci­ence Mis­sion Direc­torate in Wash­ing­ton. The rover was designed, devel­oped and assem­bled at JPL, a divi­sion of the Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy in Pasade­na, Cal­if.

Notice what’s miss­ing? The most essen­tial piece of infor­ma­tion for any­one who actu­al­ly WANTS to “Keep up with curios­i­ty as the rover checks in”: the Rover’s user han­dle on Foursquare, MarsCu­rios­i­ty. The release even fails to men­tion the Rover’s twit­ter han­dle, @marscuriosty.

Only a jour­nal­ist and edi­tor com­bo who aren’t on Foursquare, or Twit­ter, would miss that. Because as that lit­tle rover knows, news the­se days isn’t just about the Who, What, Where, When: it’s about the “How do I con­nect.”

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