Taking Lunar Exploration Online

A screencap of Red Rover's Facebook profile in beta. The social engine is not currently operating this profile.

With the acquisition of a Falcon 9 launch contract, Astrobotic is embarking on an unprecedented commercial mission to the moon. In this age of abundant online access and social networking, the opportunities to share the mission online have never been greater.

Traditionally, the public relied on media outlets like television and newspaper to deliver news about space exploration. Social media has revolutionized how the public is able to get information. NASA established a Twitter account for the Mars rovers, which enabled operators to post as the rovers and communicate information directly to the public. NASA saw remarkable success in generating public interest in the mission.

An ongoing project at Astrobotic is the development of Red Rover’s social side. Red Rover will be able to communicate with the public through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. However, unlike the Mars rovers, which have human operators, social software will enable Red Rover to interact autonomously with followers. The social Red Rover will process real-time mission information and post it on social media outlets. It will also be capable of responding to user comments, answering questions, and learning about users that interact with it.

The personification of Red Rover’s communication offers a new and entertaining method for delivering information to the public on familiar platforms that can, as demonstrated by NASA’s Twitter accounts, successfully engage users and increase public interest in the project.

In addition to developing Red Rover’s social capabilities, there are other online projects in the works. One project involves a website interface for live streaming of field testing images from Red Rover’s cameras. This interface would serve as a prototype for a system for sharing real time navigation images from the lunar surface.

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