An article published in Christian Science Monitor August 12 looks at the strong social presence of Curiosity, and then examines whether this mission could impact future generations of students by inspiring them to go into a science-related field.
According to the article, scholars who evaluate the state of science education worry that the United States is falling behind and not preparing students for a future that will depend more on scientific and technological skills.
Experts and scientists hope that the popularity of this Mars mission, one of the first major NASA expeditions with a wide social media presence, will boost interest in science and technology.
They are still figuring out the exact numbers, but it seems that almost 4.5 million people watched the landing on TV and that more than 3.2 million streamed it over the Internet, according to David Seidel, deputy education director for the JPL. Curiosity has more than 240,000 Facebook "likes" and close to 900,000 Twitter followers.
Kip Hodges, a professor and the director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in Tempe, says he has high hopes that students will be inspired by the rover. A new research facility at the school is equipped with a 3-D high-definition theater and space to project images streamed from Mars. Mr. Hodges says some scientific disciplines are already growing rapidly, with young people concerned about the environment, and that the cool factor and interactive tools NASA created for Curiosity could attract a lot of interest.
“It’s like the greatest video game in the world, you’re dealing with an avatar on another planet, and one that’s really there,” says Hodges about the mobile Mars laboratory’s appeal.