Mars Curiosity Rover: One year since the landing

In this photo provided by NASA, a view of the lower reaches of Mount Sharp is shown in a cropped image taken with a 34-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover on August 18, 2012 on Mars. Credit: Getty Images
In this photo provided by NASA, a view of the lower reaches of Mount Sharp is shown in a cropped image taken with a 34-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover on August 18, 2012 on Mars.
Credit: Getty Images

If seems like ‘light years’ ago that we were holding our breath, anticipating the landing of Curiosity, the Mars rover. It’s hard to believe that the little robot just celebrated its first birthday on Mars a few days ago.

We spoke to Guy Webster, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the highlights of the trip, what the team has planned for the rover in the future and whether or not Curiosity really meant to draw a penis in the sand.

Metro: Curiosity celebrated its first birthday by singing “Happy Birthday” to itself. Theoretically, if there was any other life out there, would they have been able to hear it? I thought you can’t hear things in space.

Guy Webster: Sound waves can’t travel in a vacuum, but Mars does have an atmosphere that could carry sound waves. There is only about one percent as much atmospheric pressure at the surface of Mars as at the surface of Earth, so sounds would be fainter and the frequencies would be different. Of course, there has been no finding of any form of life on Mars.

How did Curiosity get its name?

A public contest in 2008 and 2009 invited name suggestions from school students. A student in Kansas, Clara Ma, submitted the winning suggestion for naming the rover Curiosity. In her winning essay, she said, “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.”

The rover has done some scandalous things, like drawing that phallic symbol in the Martian dirt. Was that on purpose? Did anyone else notice before the picture went viral?

The rover’s wheel tracks are traces of driving decisions that have been made for many reasons, but not for what the tracks will look like. Humans have a natural tendency to perceive familiar patterns, such as faces, in rocks and squiggles.

What is your favorite Curiosity moment?

It’s tough to beat landing night, when so many things had to go right, and they did.

Other than that, it was thrilling to get the results indicating that Curiosity was working right in an area where a Martian stream used to flow. It’s amazing to picture the rover driving where water flowed ankle deep, carrying rocks and sand with it from miles away.

What’s coming up next for Curiosity?

The rover has driven away from an area where it first found evidence of an ancient Martian environment that offered conditions favorable for microbes to live, if Mars ever has had microbes.

In early July, Curiosity began a drive that will take many months to get to geological layers in the lower portion of a three-mile-tall mound, called Mount Sharp. There, the rover team hopes to find evidence about other past environments with habitable conditions, and how they changed. The team plans to drive the rover a few hundred meters up the mountain, studying each layer and the environmental conditions under which it formed.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD: Suspect dead after two U.S. Marshals, cop…

A suspected sex offender died during a shootout inside a West Village smoke shop that left two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective wounded, officials said.

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.

Food

Zagat releases '30 Under 30' list

Zagat releases a list of the people changing the food and drink industry across the country.