It’s a sad existence when you’re a rover on Mars. Your twin stopped talking five years ago but you continue your mission of beaming information about Mars back to your home planet, hoping a control center will send word for your eventual return one day.
Once a year on August 6, the anniversary of its arrival on Mars, Curiosity sings Happy Birthday to itself.
Ordinarily, this vibration is used to filter samples of Mars dirt. But for a brief few moments, Curiosity can enjoy the sounds of itself playing Happy Birthday. Then it’s back to work!
Launched in 2012, Curiosity has discovered much about Mars in its three years on the Red Planet. Here are its top six discoveries:
Want to live the life of a rover but can’t afford the $2.5 billion price tag? NASA has created two new online tools for us Earth-dwellers to enjoy Curiosity’s unique view of Mars.
Experience Curiosity is a virtual reality world especially created by NASA for the rover’s third birthday. Combining dozens of photographs taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), these high-resolution images of life on Mars provide an immersive adventure for all.
"This tool has opened my eyes as to how we should first approach roaming on another world, and now the public can join in on the fun," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington, in a statement. "Our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great progress on the journey to Mars. Together, humans and robots will pioneer Mars and the solar system."
NASA also created Mars Trek, a succession of interactive maps, captured by orbiting spacecraft. Using analysis tools, intrepid Mars explorers (on Earth) can traverse the rocky terrain and learn more about the Red Planet. The topography of Mars can also be 3D printed, straight from the website.
Researchers from NASA are already using Mars Trek to find possible landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover.
“At three years old, Curiosity already has had a rich and fascinating life,” said Jim Erickson, project manager for the mission at JPL, in a statement. “This new program lets the public experience some of the rover’s adventures first-hand.”
Happy Birthday from Earth, Curiosity!