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 A general NASA Twitter feed can be viewed at For a list of NASA missions providing updates on Twitter, visit

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group