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Happy Birthday Curiosity!

August 6, 2013

You guys – I know I post about space things like 99% of the time, but today is a special one. It’s the one-year anniversary of Curiosity rover landing on Mars! So in honor of our favorite anthropomorphized robotic friend, I thought I would share some fun facts and photos to familiarize you with its mission. And it’s adorableness.

Seriously, he takes selfies.

So… after flying through space for 350 million miles over 7 months, this little guy had to carry itself safely to the surface of the red planet and get down to business. The landing scheme was literally out of this world (har), and required several complicated steps (including something called a sky crane) that lowered him down via cables and rocket boosters. The team in charge of the rover lovingly named this entire stress-fest the “seven minutes of terror.” Cool video here, if you want to know more. Long story short, he made it just fine and the whole world cheered alongside Bobak.

Google him if you don’t know haha

The rover quickly set about it’s business and started transmitting photos home as soon as it landed, much to the delight of NASA and Twitter alike. One of it’s first discoveries was a rocky formation closely resembling a riverbed, which provides even more exciting evidence for a history of liquid water on the surface of Mars.

NASA porn

The chemical elements on the surface of the planet have been analyzed using the SAM (“sampling at Mars”)… which is a giant portable science lab containing a mass spectrometer, a laser spectrometer and a gas chromatograph. These are just fancy words for science machines that can take a sample and tell you what it’s made out of, which is something we’d like to know about Mars rocks. The SAM itself actually makes up a huge chunk of Curiosity’s bulk, coming in at almost half the scientific payload, which goes to show you how cool it must be.

One way the SAM was used was to analyze samples drilled out of rocks – which brings us to our next fun fact. Curiosity is is the first rover to actually drill into the surface of another planet – and when it did, we discovered that all the basic ingredients for life are present on that dusty old rock. There is sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon… and lots more goodies that could have made an ancient organism come to life, especially if they happened to be near some of that lovely surface water we’ve already mentioned. So that’s neat.

Drill skill

As if all that stuff wasn’t cool enough, Curiosity rover ALSO came equipped with a laser called ChemCam. It can be pointed at things out of reach for the rover, or things that are far away but potentially interesting to scientists. By zapping rocks with the laser the rover can analyze the vaporized material and gain information about what the rocks are made out of. So, you know, that’s pretty futuristic.

Pew pew! Actual laser holes left on Mars by the ChemCam laser. Neat.

So in any case – I could sit here and write for days about this stuff but instead I’ll just point you to some cool resources. You can get up-to-date info on what the rover is up to on the NASA website, or you can even follow Curiosity on Twitter. There’s also videos released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) periodically that explain some of the mission objectives and data collection. (Speaking of JPL, here’s another fun fact: the wheels of curiosity are made such that the Morse code for “JPL” is imprinted on the dirt everywhere it drives. NICE.)

Finally, my last fun fact for this post is that Curiosity knows how to sing. In fact, for this occasion, he sang happy birthday to himself (Cute? Sad? I don’t even know it just gives me the feels). He used instrument vibrations from SAM to generate the notes and literally sang to himself. Skip to the 1:07 mark to see a demonstration of how it worked in real life.

Ha. Rover. You go.

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From → SPACE

3 Comments
  1. patricknygren permalink

    There aren’t enough gifs. I’m mad.

  2. Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle whaaaaat – gurl look at that rover. It’s sexy and it knows it.

  3. William permalink

    Who doesn’t love high resolution panoramic photos from distant planets? As if Curiosity wasn’t awesome enough, they added the distance vapor analysis tool (which I didn’t know about), that’s just total insanity!

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