Almost 2 years ago in November 2011, NASA sent one of its most sophisticated rovers to our immediate celestial neighbor. After traveling 99 million miles, the Curiosity rover landed on Mars on August 2nd 2012. Since then, the rover has been trudging on some of the most hostile, not to mention extremely remote terrain that any machine has ever had to tread. But the determined exploratory laboratory on wheels has sent back some of the most vital information about Mars that scientists would have never been able to find out sitting on earth.
Though the Curiosity rover has been on the Martian surface for almost 700 days, a year on Mars is that long. A standard Martian year, the time the planet takes to revolve around our sun is a mind-numbing 687 days long! Hence though the robot has spent almost two years on Mars as per earth-days, scientists are terming it as Curiosity’s 1 year anniversary.
Notwithstanding the duration, the Curiosity rover has been of immense importance to NASA and the world. The rover has fundamentally altered the perception of the red planet. Looking back, some things have gone much better than anticipated, in spite of one very nasty snag, reported CNN.
The Curiosity rover landed right in an ancient river-bed and established the fact that the now bone-dry planet once had flowing water on its surface. Needless to say, these facts were expected to take a lot longer to uncover, but Curiosity was clearly in no mood to wait, according to the LA Times.
Thereafter, Curiosity pulled out some dirt from a carter called Gale and was able to confirm Mars had the right kind of water to sustain life. Within the next few days, Curiosity confirmed that Mars indeed harbored microscopic life-forms millions of years ago, subtly hinting at re-colonization in the future.
But all did not go as well as planned. Curiosity broke one of its wheels in late 2013, forcing the rover to crawl even slower than before. Since it has landed, despite the setback, Curiosity has traveled about 5 miles. The distance might seem trivial, but imagine a machine with no human directly driving it, having to maneuver on a sandy terrain while gales of wind containing sand blow continuously. If that’s not treacherous enough, Curiosity also has to generate its own electricity by charging its batteries via its solar arrays that can get cloaked with sand. On top of it all, Curiosity also bravely survived the brutal Martian winter.
In 700 days, NASA’s Curiosity rover has unveiled a lifetime worth of Mars’ secrets and continues to hunt for more. What more can one ask from an autonomous robot?
[Image Credit | NASA]