NASA Patronizes Fans with Stupidly Anthropomorphized Rover Tweets
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has been condescendingly anthropomorphized on its official Twitter feed (and Facebook page), where followers are treated to a hodgepodge of childish colloquialisms and odd capitalization rules. The operative theory seems to be that planetary science enthusiasts have all the intelligence of a small, desiccated, pea.
MSL has landed safely, and the fine folks over at NASA want you to know that the most technologically advanced rover ever made
is ready to begin exploring the chemistry and geology of Mars in ways once deemed unimaginable tweets like a drunken teenage redneck. The silly tweets have spawned a hilarious knock-off rover feed called SarcasticRover, which has garnered over fifty thousand followers.
MSL is apparently able to speak (or at any rate, tweet) in first person, about what it is feeling,
experiencing, and seeing (so long as it has nothing to do with science). Lookee here:
MSL even talks in first person on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's MSL mission website, where visitors
are encouraged to learn in acerbic detail about the latest scientific findings prodded to "Send Me a Message."
Plagued by budget cuts and layoffs, NASA still has enough cash to bankroll a slick social media team, who write the MSL tweets. The team recently won the "prestigious" Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award in April of this year from the Space Foundation, a self-congratulatory organization whose primary function is, it seems, to put on award shows for people in their immediate circle of friends. The team is about as deserving of this award as Obama was in receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Oddly oblivious to how utterly out of place this is for such a high profile scientific mission, a member of
the "award-winning" team had this to say in defense of MSL's juvenile banter: "Obscure pop culture references, song lyrics, and some of the corniest jokes imaginable are just a few ways that we've transformed Curiosity from an inanimate piece of metal into a lovable rover with a life of her own."
Yes, because that's really going to improve science and math scores...or something. Even if it were deemed necessary to squeeze every last ounce of popularity out of an already wildly popular mission, who believes that dumbed-down condescension advances that goal?
NASA's Obama-appointed administrator, Charles Bolden, has already come under fire for marginalizing science in favor of a vision that is flailing helplessly in the Martian wind, and it is doubtful that MSL's cringe-worthy tweets will do much to assuage his critics.
At a time when our country's status as the preeminent land of scientific discovery is being legitimately challenged, maybe it's time to rethink where our priorities lie. Perhaps a new round of budget cuts and layoffs are in order, starting with the jobs of Charles Bolden and NASA's social media team. MSL was unavailable for comment for this story.