- The official Twitter account for the Curiosity rover, @MarsCuriosity, currently has 969,261 followers. At the time of the landing, Curiosity was trending in popularity (take a look at this review of #Curiosity chatter as well as the Twitter Blog’s account of the Curiosity landing).
- Also, on Facebook, Curiosity has 268,000 fans. On Google+, #MSL trended at the number two spot for August 6 2012. Curiosity predictably trended as a Google search term, according to Google Trends.
- There were several #NASASocials (formally #NASATweetups) at various NASA facilities across the nation. Penny4NASA’s own John Zeller watched from a #NASASocial hosted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and famous NASA fan Pillow Astronaut attended a gathering at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California where 7000 people apparently gathered to watch the landing.
- In all, there were 120+ Curiosity landing parties around the United States and the globe, including several at other NASA centers. The Planetary Society hosted a crowd of 15,000 at Planetfest 2012 in Pasadena, California to watch the landing. According to NBC, around 1,000 people gathered in Times Square to watch the landing on one of the giant screens.
- During the landing broadcast, NASA websites actually went down and Ustream video actually froze up due to excessive website interaction. This is something that has happened for the last few rover landings (Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity), proving just how the Red Planet continues to excite Earthlings.
So, the Curiosity landing was popular. Very popular. It seems the entire internet knows about it now. So much so that there are already memes floating around celebrating the Curiosity Landing, However, despite this popularity – despite this fever pitch of happiness for the advancement of humanity into the unknown – the budget for the Mars Exploration program, and NASA in general, is being cut in the new Fiscal year 2013 budget proposed by the Obama administration.
The Obama Administration is asking for a 0.3% reduction in NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2013 (which is a 5% reduction from the proposed budget of FY 2012). You might be saying, “now hold on, that doesn’t sound so bad.” Not so fast. That’s a loss of $59 million. That kind of money affects several programs disproportionately because NASA has to choose which programs and initiatives will get money and which will lose money based on many factors. Essentially, NASA is being forced to cut programs where it can, cancelling some, reducing others and spreading the savings around where NASA thinks would be most effective. In light of these proposals, NASA is apparently having to severely reduce the Mars Exploration Program, cutting its budget a full $261 million! This very much reduces the capacity of Mars exploration for the near-term future. Why the Mars program is specifically being affected more than others is unclear (as Newsday notes), but if the FY 2013 Obama Administration budget recommendation for NASA is followed by Congress, it could mean that Curiosity – already a wildly popular accomplishment – could be the last time humanity does any landing on Mars for a long while. NASA, realizing that its tough times for the agency, has already cancelled the ExoMars partnership with the European Space Agency.
Remember, there is plenty you can do to make sure that NASA can continue to perform its duty to the United States and to Humanity. Swing by our Popvox widget and Write Your Congressional Representatives. Tell them how you feel about the Curiosity Rover and about NASA’s work in general. You can also spread the word to anyone you know, either in person or online. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr among many other social networks are powerful tools for getting people involved. Additionally, you can donate to Penny4NASA. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to this one task, to increase NASA’s budget up to one penny on the Federal dollar so that NASA has the room to take humanity to the next step. With your help, NASA will take us to the Red Planet and beyond.Source: SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration