Top 10 spacecraft that bring the most banter on Twitter

There are plenty of cutting-edge bits of machinery out there in our Solar System, sent on missions years ago to study comets, stars, and the outer planets. And of course, out in the loneliness of space no one can hear you scream – or bleep in their case.

But that doesn’t stop these pioneering spacecraft from having hugely popular social media personalities back here on Earth. Here are the top 10 extraterrestrial contraptions that bring the most banter on Twitter.

10. Cassini

Location: Orbiting Saturn

Followers: 525k

The Cassini-Huygens space probe launched in 1997 bound for Saturn. It arrived in 2004 and has since been studying the ringed planet and its moons. On social media Cassini is generally pretty serious, though it’s old skool and comes out with the occasional smattering of ’70s slang.

Mostly it just sends really cool pictures from Saturn – which is kind of the point.

#SpaceBants reading: 18%

9. Kepler

Location: Orbiting the Sun (not the Earth, like other space telescopes)

Twitter followers: 449k

Unlike the rest of the space machines on this list, Kepler is a space telescope which peers into space rather than actually going there. It’s mission is to locate Earth-sized exoplanets (planets outside our solar system).

This year it clocked up its 1,000th confirmed exoplanet since launching in 2009. Kepler’s tweets, therefore, can be a little braggy.

Although Kepler is willing to give a shout out to other space telescopes – if in a slightly brusque manner.

#SpaceBants reading: 22%

8. Voyager

Location: Edge of the Solar System / interstellar space

Twitter followers: 235k

The Voyager mission (made up of two spacecraft) blasted off way back in 1977. It breezed past a whole host of outer planets, and Voyager 1 is now deep into interstellar space, with Voyager 2 hot on its heels.

As an old romantic, Voyager can get very gushy on Twitter.

And the spacecraft was particularly cut up when the late, great Leonard Nimoy was finally beamed up for good. Not many people can claim such a touching tribute from an interstellar spaceship.

#SpaceBants reading: 42%

7. Dawn

Location: Orbiting dwarf planet Ceres

Twitter followers: 76k

The Dawn mission has ventured into the Asteroid Belt, with the probe orbiting dwarf planet Ceres since 2012, having left the orbit of the asteroid Vesta in 2011. So lots of variety since leaving Earth in 2007.

Dawn’s tweets often encourage follower participation. For instance this post during Earth Day.

And it’s even been getting the twittersphere to help with the actual science. Very social media savvy.

#SpaceBants reading: 45%

6. Juno

Location: En route to Jupiter

Twitter followers: 127k

Juno left Earth in 2011 and is scheduled to rendezvous with the Solar System’s largest planet in 2016. So it’s basically a young spaceship on a very long journey – a situation perfectly reflected in its “long car journey” style tweets.

Juno’s also pretty clued up on the latest cinema, with this reference to recent sci-fi romp Jupiter Ascending (starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Eddie Redmayne). To be honest, Earthlings have probably already forgotten it was released…

#SpaceBants reading: 61%

5. New Horizons

Location: Closing in on Pluto

Twitter followers: 27k

New Horizons is a probe destined for former planet Pluto. It launched in 2006 and recently “woke up” as it nears its destination. As far as it’s Twitter persona goes, New Horizons seems very excitable.

And this spacecraft doesn’t just do photoshopped Twitter pics – it gets followers to vote on them!

It’s also one of those spacecrafts that never forgets its friends’ birthdays. Or Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh.

We can’t wait for more photoshopping once New Horizons makes it.

#SpaceBants reading: 72%

4. Rosetta

Location: Orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Twitter followers: 304k

Rosetta’s mission is to perform a detailed study of the comet 67P. It’s most famous exploit to date is the successful “soft landing” of its Philae landing probe on the comet’s surface – although a lack of sunlight subsequently meant Philae “went to sleep”.

The raw enthusiasm of Rosetta is one of the things keeping the Philae story alive.

Rosetta is a generally chipper spacecraft, rewarding its followers with cute little twitter pics.

And reassuring them during the hard times.

There are signs that Rosetta could be getting a little bored buzzing around 67P waiting for Philae. It’s started naming grains of dust.

We’re sure it’s all in the name of science.

#SpaceBants reading: 78%

3. Philae

Location: Surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Twitter followers: 370k

Philae is Rosetta’s landing probe that has powered down since touching down in the shade of comet 67P. The probe’s Twitter career may have been brief (nothing since November) but it’s one of the cheekier craft out there – with lots of little back-and-forths between it and Rosetta.

The awkwardness of its landing was summed up in a few know-it-all tweets. (You’ve got to question a space probe using smiley faces…)

Then we had some endearing updates as it “went to sleep” six months ago.

#SpaceBants reading: 84%

2. Messenger

Location: Plunging towards Mercury’s surface

Twitter followers: 60k

The Messenger probe has a truly terrible life expectancy. In fact the spacecraft, which has been on a mission to study Mercury since 2004, is set to crash into the Solar System’s smallest planet on April 30.

As its successful mission draws to a close, Messenger’s tweets have become increasingly schizophrenic – with not a small amount of gallows humour.

The plucky spacecraft is still clinging on to former glories.

At least between bouts of space depression.

Although the Twitter interaction is going to be with us right until the end.

#SpaceBants reading: 96%

1. Curiosity Rover

Location: Surface of Mars

Twitter followers: 1.88M

The Curiosity Rover has been roving around the surface of Mars since 2012. And alongside countless images of oddly-shaped rocks proving/disproving life on Mars or some giant Mars-landing hoax, it’s been bringing the banter to Twitter in a big way.

Firstly there are all the cult movie references.

And the food-related jokes – from a machine that we assume has never eaten a pickle in its life.

There’s also Curiosity’s penchant for street slang.

And it’s even been sending Martian Valentine’s greetings out to its 1.88 million (yes, MILLION) followers.

#SpaceBants reading: MAX