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

Bloomberg launches $50 million anti-gun violence effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million on a grassroots anti-gun violence network to challenge the National Rifle Association.

Local

East Village woman fights off rape attempt from…

An East Village woman fought off an attempted rapist that she woke to find standing on her bed over the weekend, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Police look for man suspected of threatening Muslim…

Police seek man suspected of calling a teen Muslim girl a "terrorist" and spitting on her multiple times while on a Queens bus.

The Word

Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg are engaged

If Donnie Wahlberg wants to get vaccinated against anything, he should do it soon: he and Jenny McCarthy are engaged, she just announced on "The View."

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

Movies

Curtain raiser: The Tribeca Film Festival arrives this…

The Tribeca Film Festival begins its two-week run in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, boasting dozens and dozens of films of all stripes.

Movies

Review: 'Bears' is a cute Disney doc about…

Disney's latest nature doc, "Bears," doesn't completely shy away from the fact that its subjects would devour you (or eachother) if they had the chance.

NHL

Islanders back to rebuilding mode after disappointing season

One season after qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, the Islanders finished 2013-14 with a 34-37-11 record.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.