The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three astronauts (including NASA’s Peggy Whitson) to the International Space Station (ISS) this afternoon.
It’s true: At 3:20 p.m. EST today, Expedition 50/51, which consists of a trio of astronauts representing Russia’s Roscosmos, the European Space Agency and our very own NASA, will launch away from our lovely little planet.
This isn’t a rare occasion or anything — these days, the ISS gets new visitors every six months or so. But I’m just using the launch as an excuse to talk about something that’s always on my mind: How freakin’ great NASA is at social media.
The space agency has invigorated and enthused a new generation about space travel at a time when those in power (ahem, Congress… ) are not doing a very good job of advancing it.
Wondering when the Mars colony will be ready? Here are five social accounts (besides NASA’s Instagram, because who doesn’t follow that?) you should be following.
Peggy Whitson on Twitter
Hello, she’s about to launch to freaking outer space! Why wouldn’t you want to follow her adventure?
In addition to updates about her mission training, Whitson is singlehandedly responsible for creating an educational hashtag campaign on her own account. #NASAVillage, which has been an active hashtag for more than a year, sets out to prove that while astronauts serve as humankind’s space explorers, it takes a village to get them up there. Whitson’s tweets under the hashtag highlight the researchers, medical experts, technicians, administrative workers and all those who quite literally make spaceflight possible.
I hope that personal stories from #NASAvillage individuals will inspire our next generation of explorers.https://t.co/PSbRb4Mqg3
— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) September 6, 2015
Today in the #NASAvillage… Nichole Gadd is NeuroMapping astronaut brains scans. More here https://t.co/qmr3OGXYKt pic.twitter.com/W9DWXy64VW
— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) January 22, 2016
During a #spacewalk, I am comforted knowing the #NASAvillage has inspected every suit stitch http://t.co/F8MM2ZAvSW pic.twitter.com/bVnPJjZ8mi
— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) October 16, 2015
NASA on Tumblr
Recently, NASA decided to meet the cool kids where the cool kids live: Tumblr.
Rather than maintaining a Tumblr just for the heck of it, which happens all too often, NASA actually uses the platform to post longer, blog-like content that isn’t merely a repetition of their posts on Facebook and Twitter.
Posts like the photo scrapbook of a recently returned-to-Earth astronaut and collections of fascinating facts rich with photos and GIFs ensure that NASA’s Tumblr content isn’t just broadcasted into an internet black hole — it’s absorbed and shared as true storytelling.
Bonus: Astronaut Peggy Whitson also has her own Tumblr account, where she recently participated in a Tumblr Answer Time session.
Meet me @tumblr #AnswerTime today 3P ET. Your chance to ask me questions. More info here https://t.co/KY8BXE5UAy pic.twitter.com/ppJDo8Ltu3
— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) October 29, 2015
This Mars rover has an attitude, y’all.
What's a dazzling urbanite like me doing in a rustic setting like this? Science. Download full-res pic/wallpaper at https://t.co/q2icqZTnnT pic.twitter.com/ssFns7hCFW
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) October 3, 2016
Since landing on our friendly red neighbor in 2012, Curiosity has been tweeting up a storm of mission updates and sassy salutations while exploring the planet’s surface.
I have frickin' laser, but I'm not ill-tempered. Zapping this meteorite revealed its nickel-iron composition https://t.co/jOLRmy9qzr pic.twitter.com/j4th8NnOCN
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) November 2, 2016
NASA’s decision to personify their rover on Twitter as a means of sharing new, beautiful pictures of Martian landscapes might just be the best thing they’ve ever done. (Besides, you know, putting humans on the moon.)
Plus, Curiosity is proof that a couple of years away from Earth doesn’t make you illiterate in good ol’ web lingo.
TFW your friend comes over and you're out of town. @starwars' #BB8 learns about @NASA's #JourneyToMars at @NASAJPL https://t.co/Mgy9U9go3c
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) April 15, 2016
No sick days since 2013, and I go into precautionary safe mode over a holiday weekend? #smh https://t.co/vPXUmmiTyj
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) July 6, 2016
(Sidenote: I think Curiosity and Mr. Trash Wheel would get along well.)
NASA on Snapchat
If you’re not following NASA on Snapchat, you are seriously missing out.
Hardly a day goes by where the agency’s Snapchat story isn’t populated with interviews with scientists, behind-the-scenes looks at space equipment or Snapchat takeovers from actual outer space.
Earlier in the year, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra gave Snapchat followers a firsthand look at life aboard the ISS. That’s not your usual Sunday morning brunch snap.
If Instagram Stories are more your thing, you’re in luck: Everything that gets snapped get ‘grammed as well.
Robonaut on Twitter
Meet Robonaut: NASA’s resident humanoid robot. It (I’m being gender neutral, okay?) resides on the ISS, but it has a twin who it lovingly refers to as its sibling.
Wow! My sibling just got to take a selfie with a student visiting for the STEM discussions today #robotselfie pic.twitter.com/u2cfDS1i1x
— Robonaut (@AstroRobonaut) April 7, 2015
Go follow a cool robot. Do it.
Working w/ @onedirection & @harry_styles was cool, although my performance stole the show https://t.co/FkBC7bBRAO pic.twitter.com/fGJr445FbU
— Robonaut (@AstroRobonaut) August 22, 2016
Why does everyone keep saying "Hey Robonaut, awesome #luchador costume?" This is how I'm dressed every day! #NASACostume #HappyHalloween pic.twitter.com/1eVzt1S2kT
— Robonaut (@AstroRobonaut) October 31, 2016
Do you have a favorite NASA account we missed? Let us know!