The Curiosity Rover has shared its first images from Mars this morning via Twitter.
The one-tonne exploration robot live-tweeted its descent onto the surface of the planet over several hours, all in the first person. The first tweet after landing at 6.32am (BST) read "I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!".
Next, two low-res photos captured from the live feed were tweeted, showing the shadow of the rover and its wheel - "the first ever Twitpic from an alien planet", according to Mashable. The landing set Twitter buzzing, with the hashtags #Curiosity, #NASA and #MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) all trending. Meanwhile the verified account @MarsCuriosity grew from 137,000 to over 475,000 followers during the landing.
The difficult landing - nicknamed the 'seven minutes of terror' - was the culmination of ten years of work by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Curiosity will be exploring Mars for the next two years, investigating the Gale Crater to determine the likelihood of microbial life having existed there. It will soon begin transmitting high resolution colour images, which the robot has also promised to share on Twitter.
Who is Curiosity?
The Twitter voice of the Curiosity Rover is provided by three members of NASA's earth-based social media team, and first tweeted in November 2008. However, the team also tweeted on behalf of Curiosity's predecessor the Phoenix Lander earlier that year. Team member Courtney O'Connor told Tech News Daily:
"Obscure pop culture references, song lyrics and some of the corniest jokes imaginable are just a few ways that we've transformed Curiosity from an inanimate piece of metal into a lovable rover with a life of her own."
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "A Twitter account that live-tweets a Mars landing is one thing, but to give the rover itself a friendly and slightly geeky personality really brings the project to life. It seems Twitter is becoming established as the platform of choice for organisations that want to connect with a mass audience, but all kinds of clever and creative ways of using it are still being explored."