NASA wins Twitter award

NASA’s use of the microblogging Web site Twitter to provide updates about the Mars Phoenix Lander mission has won the agency an award for one of the best uses of social networking media, the agency said.

NASA won a Shorty Award from the Internet firm Sawhorse Media, the company announced Feb. 11.

The Shorty Awards were created to honor the best producers of short content on Twitter during 2008, according to Sawhorse Media. Updates on NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander mission received the most votes in the science category from users of the site.

The Mars Phoenix Twitter delivered more than 600 updates during the 152 days the lander operated in the north polar region of Mars. By the end of the mission in early November, more than 38,000 people were following its reports, named “tweets.”

The account is still used to provide updates on the mission’s science results and has more than 41,000 followers.

“We created the account, known as Mars Phoenix, last May with the goal of providing the public with near real-time updates on the mission,” said Veronica McGregor, manager of the news office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“The response was incredible,” she said. “Very quickly it became a way not only to deliver news of the mission, but to interact with the public and respond to their questions about space exploration.”

Tweets must be 140 characters or less. The site’s users can subscribe to, or “follow,” other users’ accounts to read their tweets on the Web or on mobile phones.

The Shorty Awards are supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, according to Sawhorse Media.

Meanwhile, the lander ceased communications Nov. 2, NASA said.

To view NASA's Mars Phoenix Twitter site, visit http://twitter.com/marsphoenix. A general NASA Twitter feed can be viewed at http://twitter.com/nasa. For a list of NASA missions providing updates on Twitter, visit http://www.nasa.gov/collaborate.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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