Tweets in the Night

By on September 1, 2012 in

I’m not techno-phobic, but I’m not exactly cutting edge, either.  My phone is a “stupid phone,” my favorite computer is a ten-year-old Dell laptop (dinosaurian by anyone’s standards,), and I only check my Facebook account once in a blue moon.  (Which means I’ll have to get to that tonight…)

I ease myself into the waters of technology just a little at a time.  My latest plumbing of the depths was to play around with my Twitter account.  Just to see how it would change my life – please don’t laugh – I boldly clicked the “turn on mobile notifications” button on the Curiosity Twitter feed.  In the days leading up to the landing, I received a tolerable one or two tweets on my phone per day.  During the day.  So far; so good.

I followed the links in the tweets to the pre-launch videos and made everyone in the family sit through the part about the sequence of events in the landing.  I thought it was the most insane piece of engineering I’d ever seen.  My husband thought it looked like a plan pulled together by a committee.  (“Let’s use a parachute!”  “No, let’s use rockets!”  “No, wait – let’s use everything!”)

On the evening of the landing, tweets started coming in every 20 minutes.  Then every ten minutes.  And I live in the land of central time, so this was all after my bedtime.  When the tweets were coming in back to back, I gave up trying to sleep and pulled up the NASA feed and the CQ Star Party, just as the “7.  Minutes.  Of.  Terror.  Starts.  NOW.” tweet hit my phone.  I got online just in the nick of time.

It used to be my dog that woke me up to see the wonders of the night.

Like everyone else who has blogged, videoed, parodied, posted, and tweeted on that night, I found that witnessing the landing was an incredibly exhilarating experience.  Those tweets in the night were a literal wake-up call to be an observer in one of the craziest schemes ever conceived by humans.

Now that I’ve had time to savor the moments and contemplate the scope of the MSL’s impact on science and the collective psyche, it strikes me that Curiosity’s tweets are the very best use of today’s technology and social media: not so much knowing what everybody is thinking all the time, but knowing when something really important is happening.  We were given personal invitations to be a part of an indescribable moment in history.  If that kind of beyond-cutting-edge engineering can get a techno-sloth like me actively engaged in exploring possibilities, then Curiosity is giving us a lot more than a stepping stone to a new world: it’s giving us a stepping stone to the future of our own world.

Who knows what’s next?  Curiosity is zapping rocks and trundling over unexplored terrain.  Perhaps I’ll take my own excursions into the unknown.

I might even start following @starstryder as my next adventure.  😉

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