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

Drive charged in fatal hit and run, police…

The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for a fatal hit and run in Manhattan last weekend. Doohee Cho, 33, was hit…

Local

Mayor de Blasio raises minimum wage for some…

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday morning that will raise the minimum wage for workers employed by private companies that receive more…

National

3 myths about the working poor

Linda Tirado works to debunk some common stereotypes about the working poor in her new book, "Hand to Mouth."

Money

Lawsuit funding advances: friend or foe?

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Many plaintiffs awaiting resolution of their lawsuit or legal claim often find themselves in a tricky financial…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

Entertainment

Interview: Metro chats with filmmaker Meir Kalmanson, man…

A New York filmmaker hands out smiles to its residents.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 30: 'Selfie,' 'Utopia'…

'Selfie' This modern day take on the "My Fair Lady" story stars John Cho in the Henry Higgins role. Perhaps instead of "the rain in…

Music

Can't-miss weekend events continue to attract the masses

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Earlier this summer, the Firefly Music Festival drew crowds of tens of thousands of people to Dover, Delaware.…

MLB

Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

Style

Products that support breast cancer awareness and research

Asics GT-1000, $100 Asics’ third pink collection in collaboration with Christina Applegate’s Right Action for Women includes this pink-accented version of its best-selling GT-1000 3…

Wellbeing

Dr. Marisa Weiss: Where we stand on breast…

As an oncologist and a survivor herself, Dr. Marisa Weiss knows the urgency felt by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing has accelerated the…

Wellbeing

Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid. A team from…

Home

Emily Henderson on small space design

Design expert Emily Henderson shows us how to upgrade our cramped quarters.