On Mars Curiosity Rover’s 10th Anniversary, Scientists and NASA Employees Share Fond Memories

As NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover turns 10, scientists and workers celebrate fond memories and lessons from the Red Planet mission

  • On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover slowly made its way to the surface of the Red Planet and began its journey.
  • “It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars exploration program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist.
  • JPL systems engineer Sophia Mitchell has spoken of her job as an ‘Uber space pilot’ as she pilots the Curiosity rover over 100 million miles
  • We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day. I can tell you that Curiosity is going to help keep you safe,’ Vasavada told a child who asked a question.

Happy birthday to one of Nasaproudest accomplishments.

On August 5, 2012, the March Curiosity Rover made its way to the surface of the Red Planet and began a journey that took eight years longer than expected, gathering valuable data to find out if life can be sustained there – and if those conditions existed in the past.

As part of the celebration, scientists and mission members from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Goddard Space Flight Center, along with the United States Geological Survey took part in a Twitter Space – essentially a sort of chat room – where they shared fond memories and lessons from the historic mission to the Fourth Rock from the Sun.

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On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover slowly made its way to the surface of the Red Planet. The rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined in this self-portrait where the rover punched through a sandstone target called ‘Windjana’

“It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars exploration program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. “The ultimate goal is to determine whether life ever evolved on Mars, whether it existed in the past or even today.”

To do this, Curiosity was launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral. After its months-long journey through space, the 2,000-pound car-sized rover landed inside the 3.7 billion-year-old, 100-mile-long Gale Crater, and began its methodical exploration of the surface of Mars.

JPL systems engineer Sophia Mitchell has spoken of her job as a “space Uber pilot”, as she pilots the Curiosity rover more than 100 million miles away.

“It’s definitely a dream job,” she said. “I’m an aerospace engineer and I really consider myself an explorer, so the ultimate exploration job in my mind is to drive a massive science robot to another planet.”

“It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars exploration program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. “The ultimate goal is to determine whether life ever evolved on Mars, whether it existed in the past or even today.” The red planet is pictured above in a NASA handout

NASA scientists say the now-dusty Mars was once covered in masses of water - an indication that this arid planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do it.  The Mars Curiosity Rover took this panorama (above) of the Red Planet

NASA scientists say the now-dusty Mars was once covered in masses of water – an indication that this arid planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do it. The Mars Curiosity Rover took this panorama (above) of the Red Planet

What the rover learned helped scientists paint a picture of what the planet probably looked like billions of years ago. The answer is that the now dusty Mars was once covered in masses of water – an indication that this barren planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do so.

This possibility has been bolstered by Curiosity’s discovery of organic molecules found during drilling in shallow parts of the planet’s surface. The team spoke enthusiastically about future missions, such as the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, which will be able to dig deeper than Curiosity’s tools allow.

Although the past decade has been filled with discoveries, it has also been fraught with challenges. What was supposed to be a two-year mission has been extended indefinitely and Curiosity has started to show its age, with wear on the wheels and a drill rig not working as it used to.

As Mitchell noted, when something breaks on Mars, “We can’t send someone over there to fix it.” We just have to figure out how to use what we have to still be able to do what we want.

Although robots have visited our closest celestial neighbor, it is a journey that no human has yet been able to take.

The team has enthusiastically endorsed the possibility that humanity will one day travel to Mars, a journey that will be facilitated by vital radiation data collected by Curiosity – and likely with the help of Elon Musk’s spacecraft, after successfully completing an orbital launch test and bring people to the moon first.

“I can just say that I hope you go to Mars,” Vasavada told a curious kid who was picked to ask a question. “We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day and I can tell you that Curiosity is going to help keep you safe.”

As Mitchell noted, when something breaks on Mars,

As Mitchell noted, when something breaks on Mars, “We can’t send someone over there to fix it.” We just have to figure out how to use what we have to still be able to do what we want. This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars

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