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WWU Planetarium manager Brad Snowder got a first-hand look at the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover this summer after being selected by NASA to help promote the mission and landing of the rover as it reached Mars. Snowder has managed the Planetarium since 1995 and also lectures for WWU’s physics and astronomy departments.

The Curiosity Rover is a probe sent by NASA with the goal of studying Mars’ habitability. Ultimately, Curiosity hopes to determine Mars’ ability to support small life forms. It employs the use of some of the most technologically advanced equipment ever used for this type of exploration. In August, Snowder spent three days at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena where he worked with a team of social networking specialists to promote the landing of Curiosity through social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. The idea behind this practice is to create buzz on the Internet that will result in a surge of public interest. This tactic employed by NASA has proven to be an effective way to increase awareness of space exploration. Snowder was chosen as one of 25 team members selected from a field of more than 2,400 applicants to participate in the promotion.

Snowder sat in mission control during the entry and landing procedure and was present for the first transmission from the probe upon landing. Other perks included extensive facility tours of labs and control rooms that are not normally visible to the public, in addition to press conferences and meetings with world-class scientists and engineers. During the mission, Snowder and his teammates tweeted the whole nerve racking process that culminated with a safe and successful landing