Entertainment · August 5, 2022

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Mars Curiosity rover, scientists and NASA staff shared fond memories

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

  • On August 5, 2012, the Mars rover Curiosity slowly made its way to the surface of the red planet and began its journey
  • “It has a special role in NASA’s Mars exploration program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist at the Mars Science Laboratory
  • JPL Systems Engineer Sophia Mitchell spoke about her job as a “space Uber driver” while piloting the Curiosity rover from over 100 million miles away
  • “We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day. I can tell you that curiosity will help protect you,” Vasavada said to a child asking a question

Happy landing to one of NASA’s proudest achievements.

On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity rover made its way to the red planet’s surface, beginning a journey that took eight years longer than planned to gather valuable data on whether life can be supported there — and if it can be conditions prevail the past.

As part of the celebrations, scientists and mission members from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Goddard Space Flight Center, as well as the United States Geological Survey, took part in a Twitter Space — basically a chat room of sorts — where they shared fond memories and lessons of the historic mission fourth rock from the sun.

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On August 5, 2012, the Mars rover Curiosity 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 capture dozens of still images, which were combined into this self-portrait, where the rover was drilling into a sandstone target called Windjana.

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

To this end, Curiosity was launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral. After traveling through space for months, 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 Martian surface.

JPL Systems Engineer Sophia Mitchell spoke about her job as a “space Uber driver” while piloting the Curiosity rover from over 100 million miles away.

“It’s definitely a dream job,” she said. “I’m an aerospace engineer, but I really see myself as an explorer, so the ultimate exploration job in my mind is driving a giant science robot around on another planet.”

“It has a special role in NASA’s Mars exploration program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist at the Mars Science Laboratory. “The ultimate goal is to find out if life has ever evolved on Mars, whether it has 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 with bodies of water -- an indication that this barren planet might once have supported some form of life, or at least had the capacity to do so.  The Mars Curiosity Rover captured this panorama (top) of the Red Planet

NASA scientists say the now-dusty Mars was once covered with bodies of water — an indication that this barren planet might once have supported some form of life, or at least had the capacity to do so. The Mars Curiosity Rover captured this panorama (top) of the Red Planet

The rover’s findings have helped scientists paint a picture of what the planet likely looked like billions of years ago. The answer is that the now-dusty Mars was once covered by water—an indication that this barren planet may have once harbored some form of life, or at least had the ability to.

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

While the last decade has been full of discoveries, it has also been full of challenges. What was supposed to be a two-year mission has been extended indefinitely and Curiosity is starting to show its age, with wear and tear on the wheels and a drill that doesn’t work as it used to.

As Mitchell noted, if something breaks on Mars, “we can’t send someone 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 nearest neighbor in heaven, it is a journey no human has yet been able to undertake.

The team enthusiastically endorsed the possibility of humanity one day making it to Mars, a journey supported by key radiation data being collected by Curiosity – and likely with the help of Elon Musk’s Starship after successfully conducting an orbital launch test and takes people to the moon first.

“All I can say is that I hope you go to Mars,” Vasavada said to a curious child who was chosen to ask a question. “We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day, and I can tell you that Curiosity will help protect you.”

As Mitchell noted, if something breaks on Mars, “we can't send someone 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 artistic concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars

As Mitchell noted, if something breaks on Mars, “we can’t send someone 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 artistic concept of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars

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