NASA’s Curiosity Rover Reaches One Year Anniversary


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On August 5, 2012, the eyes of the world were on what would be an incredible landing of a small, SUV sized rover on the surface of Mars.  Fortunately, the landing went perfectly and the Curiosity Rover would begin its exploration of the Red Planet.  In its first year, according to NASA, the Curiosity “has provided more than 190 gigabits of data; returned more than 36,700 full images; fired more than 75,000 laser shots to investigate the composition of targets; collected and analyzed sample material from two rocks; and driven more than one mile (1.6 km).”  To commemorate the landing, NASA’s Curiosity team members will share their memories on Tuesday, August 6th from 10:45 to noon EST, on NASA television and its website.  Curiosity was lowered to the surface by the sky crane landing system which had never before been attempted.  The necessity for such a system stemmed from the fact Curiosity was so much larger than the other rovers previously landed on Mars.  Bouncing it in a protective elastic structure would not have been effective for such a large and heavy vehicle.  It  was set down at the base of Mount Sharp which has provided much information about Mars’ past including geological layers which would point to it once having a wet environment. According to NASA scientists, almost everything they wanted to learn about Mars from Curiosity’s journey as already been accomplished.  “We now know Mars offered favorable conditions for microbial life billions of years ago,” said the mission’s project scientist, John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “It has been gratifying to succeed, but that has also whetted our appetites to learn more. We hope those enticing layers at Mount Sharp will preserve a broad diversity of other environmental conditions that could have affected habitability.”  Curiosity still has much to do and years of life left, so the exploration of Mars will continue.  NASA’s next mission to Mars, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), is being prepared for launch in November to study processes in the upper atmosphere which will hopefully lead to an understanding as to what happened to Mars’ atmosphere.

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