Feeds

Happy first anniversary, Curiosity!

Nuclear-powered, laser-equipped space tank clocks up a year on Mars

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Where were you on August 6th, 2012, during the “seven minutes of terror” during which the Curiosity Rover descended onto the Martian surface?

Wherever you were, the minutes were aptly-named, because Curiosity landed courtesy of a “sky crane” that saw a rocket hover just long enough for the rover the be lowered onto the red planet by a winch and cables. The rocket then blasted away to land well clear of Curiosity's landing zone.

If that sounds nutty, remember that our last few rovers arrived in pyramid-shaped clusters of balloons, a kind of interplanetary bubble wrap designed to cushion their fall onto Martian soil.

That system didn't always work well and the sky crane was untested. Throw in the fact that during the seven minutes Curiosity wasn't able to beam out so much as a single packet, leaving an awful lot of boffins – and countless interested homo sapiens - waiting for news about whether the $US1bn, six-month journey to Mars would be a success.

We now know the sky crane worked and Curiosity quickly started beaming back images. The first weren't stunning, as you can see below.

curiosity color

Curiosity's first colour shot of Mars

Let's give the rover a break: that shot was taken on August 7th. By the very next day, the craft was sending back 3D shots like the one below.

3D pic of Mars terrain from Curiosity

Damn it! Where did I put those 3D glasses?

In the mission's early days we also learned about the extent of humanity's presence on the red planet, thanks to images like the one below taken by the Mars Observer orbiter.

curiosity landing site

Curiosity: humanity's first Martian litterbug

The rover's mission on Mars has been to figure out if the planet could ever have hosted life as we know it. Over the last year, data Curiosity's collected mean we're more confident than ever advancing a hypothesis that Mars may once have been home to something like the organims we see on earth.

Evidence includes a ”pebbly beach” bearing small stones that look like they were formed after erosion by running water. If you don't like them pebbles, core samples taken by Curiosity's fearsome drill found everything a microbe needs in a balanced diet, such as sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon.

Which is not to say everything's been easy for Curiosity. Early in its mission it had to upgrade its operating system. It later experienced a storage bug that needed another fix and saw the rover use its auxiliary computer for a time.

NASA also felt the need to fend off conspiracy theories, taking pains to explain just how the vehicle took a selfie.

Selfies have since become a bit of a Curiosity speciality, as the billion-pixel beauty below shows.

Curiosity Billion Pixel Image

Is my head in the middle of this?

What does Curiosity's future hold? In June, NASA pointed it in the direction of Mount Sharp, an object about eight kilometres from its current position. At the time of that announcement, Curiosity had travelled just 733 metres in ten months. On July 10th, it moved 100.3 metres, its longest-ever single-day journey.

And now for the crushing perspective: reaching Mount Sharp is expected to take a year.

Curiosity has clearly expanded humanity's understanding of Mars by a huge amount, but the little craft has scarcely scratched the surface of the red planet. And Mars is just a tiny mote in the universe … ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.