Six years ago, on August 5, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover landed on the red planet. The car-sized robot has been conducting science there ever since, trekking the curves of the Gale Crater and moving up and down Vera Rubin Ridge on Mount Sharp to take snapshots of the Martian landscape and collect precious rock samples.
Every year, our six-wheeled friend celebrates his birthday on Mars and, although he may be by himself in the desolate, albeit fascinating, alien territory, he’s never alone. His loving parents at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which built and operates the rover, are always looking after the little guy, and so are his millions of social media fans.
While Curiosity’s first birthday was celebrated with pomp and style — you might recall that, in 2013, the robot hummed the “Happy Birthday” tune to himself in the cheers of everyone watching from home — this year the rover enjoyed a much quieter anniversary, Quartz notes.
For his sixth birthday, the Curiosity rover only sent out a tweet to mark the occasion and made a funny quip about anniversary presents.
“I touched down on Mars six years ago. Celebrating my 6th landing anniversary with the traditional gift of iron… oxide. (It puts the red in Red Planet.),” Curiosity’s Twitter account posted yesterday morning.
I touched down on #Mars six years ago. Celebrating my 6th landing anniversary with the traditional gift of iron… oxide. (It puts the red in Red Planet.) https://t.co/AgssRU46yh pic.twitter.com/IAMa5H4TUG
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 5, 2018
Aside from making a witty reference to the custom of gifting couples objects made out of iron on their sixth wedding anniversary, Curiosity took a moment to remind us what gives Mars its reddish tint.
This short clip from NASA explains everything, showing that Martian landscapes come in many different colors, including butterscotch, golden, brown, tan, and even greenish. Mars’ colors are influenced by the minerals found in the planet’s soil and by the iron content of Martian rocks, which oxidize and give off rusty dust, making the sky look pink.
Lots Of Twitter Love
Curiosity’s sixth anniversary on Mars wasn’t forgotten by the rover’s many Twitter fans, who replied to the post with endearing messages wishing the lovable robot a happy birthday.
“Happy 6th, Curiosity. Keep rockin’ & rollin’!” someone wrote.
“Congrats on six years well spent. It was a[n] honor to help you get there!” reads another tweet.
Some even posted adorable photos to celebrate Curiosity’s birthday.
— Javier Tamames Fg (@FgTamames) August 5, 2018
One of Curiosity’s Twitter followers even started reminiscing about the day the intrepid robot first touched down on Mars six years ago.
“It feels like yesterday that I sat on my roof and cheered/cried when the tweet came through confirming landing,” she tweeted.
If you’re a major fan of the Curiosity rover as well, you’ll be glad to know that know that now you can build your own Mars robot using designs from JPL and sent it trekking through your backyard, per a previous Inquisitr report.
Despite the memes and media reports that Curiosity has been singing “Happy Birthday” to himself all these years on August 5, the truth is that only happened one time, in 2013.
Florence Tan, deputy chief technologist at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, clarified the matter last year in an interview with The Atlantic.
“In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars,” Tan said.
As she explained, the song uses up too much of the rover’s energy, which the nuclear-powered robot would have the divert away from other activities, such as his scientific conquests.
“Technically, singing ‘Happy birthday’ to itself only hastens Curiosity’s demise,” notes Quartz.
In case you’re feeling nostalgic, check out the video below to see the Curiosity rover sing to himself on his first birthday. (The song starts at 1:20.)