A Dream of Mars

By Joi Weaver
In 2008, thousands of people fell in love with a robot, far from its home, out in the cold of space. No, I’m not talking about Wall-E: I mean the Mars Explorer, nicknamed “Phoenix.” Aside from its obvious purposes of space exploration and study, the Mars Explorer was also a new step for NASA when it became one of the most followed accounts on the social networking site, Twitter. In early November, the Explorer ceased communicating with Earth, but not before the Twitterstream generated a massive following, and captured the hearts of thousands. Some of the last few Tweets from the Explorer(written by Veronica McGregor of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, http://twitter.com/marsphoenix and http://www.twitter.com/veronicamcg) were very poignant:

I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I’ll be humankind’s monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me ;-) 1:57 AM Oct 30th, 2008 from web
Take care of that beautiful blue marble out there in space, our home planet. I’ll be keeping an eye from here. Space exploration FTW! 12:55 PM Oct 30th, 2008 from web

Many of the Explorer’s followers on Twitter expressed amazement that they were getting so emotional over a robot, especially when everyone knew the messages were coming from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, not the surface of Mars. Why get worked up over a machine that was slowly shutting down?

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