Mars’s own 21st century Wall-E, there’s a chance you already follow NASA’s Curiosity rover on Twitter. And if you don’t, you really should, because it’s the best combination of technology and childlike wonder!
The explorer marked its 2,000th day on Mars a few days back, and it continues to marvel us. Regularly, we get stunning pictures from space thanks to this great feat of science. Let’s celebrate this amazing space exploration vehicle with some amazing facts about the Curiosity rover!
Curiosity’s name is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring things about it, and it was a stroke of childish genius. NASA partnered with Pixar’s Wall-E (!!) and launched a nationwide student contest to give its Mars rover a name. Of course, there were plenty of submissions: over 9,000, in fact. Ultimately, the person who came up with “Curiosity” was a little girl from Kansas!
Clara Ma, then 12 and studying at Sunflower Elementary School in Lenexa, Kansas, submitted her winning essay including this:
“Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”
Besides naming the rover, she got to sign her name directly into the robot during assembly. That’s one story she’ll tell her grandkids!
Well, not exactly, but what happens there takes a bit to reach us. Actually, it takes 14 minutes for Curiosity’s signals to go from Mars to Earth. That’d be a pretty awful Skype call!
There’s a quarter-hour between each discovery it makes and NASA scientists knowing about it. It could find life right now and nobody on Earth would know for the next 14 minutes.
It certainly can be. This Mini Cooper-sized rover has lasers fixed atop its “head,” and they can shoot up to 23 feet. What happens when the laser reaches its destination? It vaporizes whatever’s on its way. Just like Marvin the Martian’s laser!
The remains of the vaporized substance can be later analyzed by scientists on Earth, who can check whether it’s toxic.
While Curiosity is definitely the best-known rover on Mars, the Red Planet has a few other Earthlings. And we don’t mean Matt Damon from The Martian!
The Spirit rover has been on Mars since January 2004, and comms were halted with it in 2010. Its twin, Opportunity, has been active since 2004 on the other side of Spirit. It’s been investigating rocks and their relationship with the history of water in Mars.
Here’s the most devastating thing you’ll hear today: Curiosity actually sings “happy birthday” to itself. It was programmed to celebrate its own August birthday on the desolate planet. In fact, in 2013, it was the first time that a song was played on another planet.
The rover doesn’t sing to itself anymore on his Earth calendar-based birthday. And perhaps that’s for the best, because how depressing is that image?
Originally, Curiosity’s mission was only set to last two years, starting at its 2012 landing. However, as it’s such an incredible tool to have on Mars (and a very expensive one), it was extended indefinitely. We’ll be getting plenty of Martian love from Curiosity for many years to come!