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I don’t know if this damages my nerd cred or not, but I’ve never been a very big fan of science.

I like the ideas behind it, I like the people who do it — I like that people ARE doing it — but I’ve never been very successful at science myself, so I generally don’t pay attention to it.

This weekend, though, science became cool — even to me. Sunday night, the landing of NASA’s newest Mars rover — the aptly-named Curiosity — became a hot-ticket item on the world’s attention span. While there are a ton of things that make the Curiosity landing awesome, here are four in particular that stood out to me.

NASA gets social

Thanks to NASA’s social media efforts and general online presence, coverage of the event was not only more accessible, but also more fun. People were able to watch a livestream of the event (including of the people in the control room) and could tweet and Facebook along with NASA staff. They even created a Twitter account for the rover itself (@marscuriosity), which is about the cutest, nerdiest thing I’ve seen all summer.

Lady nerds

Included in the group of awesome NASA nerds shown at Mission Control were a handful of women. And while the room was still mostly filled with men, I found it pretty inspiring that so many women were playing an important part in this project, given their minority in STEM (science, tech, engineering and mathematics) career areas.


While Curiosity was the focus of everyone’s attention last night, the mission’s flight director, Bobak Ferdowsi, nearly stole the show. Rocking a fabulously patriotic red-dashed mohawk (complete with yellow stars shaved on the sides), people tuning in to the mission’s livestream began to take note of this handsome young man — calling him “Mohawk Man.”

I’m not gonna lie, he’s got beauty and brains, and his work has spawned a number of memes — my favorite? A photo of him smiling at Mission Control, with text reading “Guides a rover through space/And into my heart.”

Geeking out — together

To me, the coolest thing to come out of the Curiosity landing on Sunday night was its ability to reveal the power of community. For instance, the entire mission cost each American taxpayer roughly $7 — cheaper than most meals on Pearl Street. The livestream was available for free all over the world, allowing countless people the opportunity to witness history in the making — tape-delayed only by the speed of light (here’s lookin’ at you, NBC).

My Twitter and Facebook streams were blowing up around the time that Curiosity landed — and even more astonishing was the fact that Times Square was packed at 1 a.m. on a Monday to watch something science-related.

So while I usually am not science’s biggest fan, Curiosity has helped me see how it can actually be quite cool.

Jessica Ryan is a senior media studies major at CU-Boulder. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.