The parody account was created by writer and comedian Jason Filiatrault, inspired by the first-person narrative being tweeted by NASA as the rover made its descent onto the surface of Mars. What if the Curiosity Rover wasn't the chipper, eager-to-do-some-science little lady that NASA presented her as? What if she was just a grumpy government employee doing her job?
SarcasticRover now has over 133,000 followers on Twitter -- about a tenth of the following of the official Curiosity Rover account, but a sizable following for a three-year-old. The account is good for a few laughs, but it's also a great way to spread news about the mission to those who might not pay attention otherwise. And these days, Filiatrault -- whose only compensation for running the thing is a modest online "tip jar" -- doesn't just stick to jokes. He's used his bot to champion scientific causes and even raise funds for special needs classrooms.
What follows is a brief Q&A with Filiatrault, seasoned with a few of our favorite tweets from the account.
It’s really impressive that SarcasticRover is still around — and still hilarious — three years in. What’s it been like to stick with the project for so long?
JF: First off — thanks for exaggerating the level of hilariousness. After three years, honestly — been great. I’ve loved seeing the people stick with the account and getting to know some of them, seeing peoples interest levels rise and fall — watching how engaged and excited people get about NASA — it’s all great. Plus I’ve loved getting to just be this character for so long. It’s comfortable now.
Why do you think the account was so successful and continues to be?
JF: I don’t know about ‘continues to be’ — but I hope people like the humor, enjoy seeing a more blunt and cranky side of science. I think maybe people just enjoy the idea of a robot being aware of its own horrible fate and sharing that journey.
Or they’re just all too polite to unfollow. I’m fine with either.
How much of your time do you dedicate to thinking about and running the account?
Not a huge amount. I follow the news and NASA stuff, try to look at the events of the week from the rover’s perspective.
Mostly it’s just automatic now — I take a breath and dumb science tweets occasionally fall out.
How would you describe your Curiosity's personality? Has she evolved at all?
JF: The Sarcastic Rover has definitely evolved. It was a lot more brash and loud and desperate — now I like to think that it has settled in, found some purpose. She’s still sarcastic — but there’s stuff I like standing up for and fighting for in a genuine way too.
It’s really become a lot more like me over the years … or maybe I’ve become more like it.
What are your future plans for the account? What if Curiosity pulls an Opportunity and spends years and years tooling around Mars? Are you in it for the long haul?
JF: I think there was a time I could have stopped maybe a year or two ago — but now, I might as well keep doing it and seeing where it goes.
I love the people I talk with and supporting the things I get to support. I’m working on an animated TV series version of the account with some great people, so we might find a life for it all outside of Twitter as well … we’ll see. Fingers and science-bits crossed.