Happy 2nd B-Day Curiosity

It only feels like yesterday that I was telling my boss that I couldn’t work for 2hrs on the 6/8/12 (Australian Time) because I wanted to watch the live feed of the Mars landing and having him tell me “Sure, if it means that much to you” whilst rolling his eyes was enough for me to take the time of anyway. Now we are celebrating the 2nd anniversary of Curiosity’s landing on the red planet and what a glorious 2 years it has been.

Mars Selfie

During her first year Curiosity fulfilled her primary goal of determining whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life. “Before landing, we expected that we would need to drive much farther before answering that habitability question,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “We were able to take advantage of landing very close to an ancient stream-bed and lake. Now we want to learn more about how environmental conditions on Mars evolved.”

During her second year, Curiosity has been driving toward her long-term goal of reaching the lower slopes of Mount Sharp but even the best laid plans of men and robots can go awry. Thanks to some sharp terrain Curiosity’s wheels have sustained some damaged and the team at JPL Pasadena have had to make some unscheduled course changes to ensure no further damage occurs.

Damaged Wheel
Damaged Wheel

Another recent challenge appeared last week in the form of unexpected behaviour by an on-board computer currently serving as backup. Curiosity carries duplicate main computers. It has been operating on its B-side computer since a problem with the A-side computer prompted the team to command a side swap in February 2013. Work in subsequent weeks of 2013 restored availability of the A-side as a backup in case of B-side trouble. In July, fresh commanding of the rover was suspended for two days while engineers confirmed that the A-side computer remains reliable as a backup.

To help prepare for future human missions to Mars, Curiosity includes a radiation detector to measure the environment astronauts will encounter on a round-trip between Earth and the Martian surface. The data is consistent with earlier predictions and will help NASA scientists and engineers develop new technologies to protect astronauts in deep space.

So what are the major highlights of the mission so far? Why not check out this great infographic from NASA and find out.


NASA also announced more exciting news recently, with plans to send anther rover based on the same Curiosity platform to the red planet in 2020, with even more exciting gadgets including a small contraption that will attempt to create oxygen from the Martian environment.

So happy B-Day Curiosity, your work is inspiring thousands of kids around the world. Keep up the good work.

Stay Curious – C.Costigan


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