This has been something that I have been meaning to write about for a long time, but between one thing and another it never happened. I have been spurred on to write this now as it has begun to dawn on me that people are beginning to use this as an example of the triumph of rationality in cultural institutions or is continuously trotted out as an example of how such institutions get science “wrong”.
Without doubt the best known science-related public relations initiative of the last few years was NASA’s Curiosity mission to Mars.
In recent years NASA has faced shrinking budgets, which in turn has led to a cessation of manned spaceflight within the US. Their focus has been on robotic missions to nearby planets, Messenger to Mercury, Juno to Jupiter and of course the three main Martian rover missions, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.
Curiosity had an initial launch-date of September 2009 however, due to the late delivery of components, NASA delayed the launch (NASA 2011). This may have proved to be a boon in PR terms, as Curiosity was able to ride a zeitgeist of social media when it eventually landed in 2012.