On the 10th anniversary of the Mars Curiosity Rover, scientists and NASA workers have shared fond memories

As NASA’s Curiosity Mars spacecraft turns 10, scientists and workers celebrate sweet memories and lessons from the Red Planet mission

  • On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover slowly made its way to the surface of the Red Planet and began its journey
  • “It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars Exploration Program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist.
  • JPL systems engineer Sophia Mitchell talks about her job as an “Uber space driver,” driving the Curiosity rover from more than 100 million miles away.
  • We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day. I can tell you that Curiosity will help protect you,” Vasavada said to a kid who asked a question

A happy earthly memory of one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments of which you are most proud.

On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover smoothed its way to the surface of the Red Planet and began a journey that took eight years longer than planned, gathering valuable data on whether life could be supported there — and whether such conditions existed in the past.

As part of the celebration, scientists and mission members from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center, as well as the US Geological Survey’s Twitter Space — a chatroom of sorts — shared cherished memories and lessons of the historic fourth rock mission from the Sun. .

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On August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover slowly made its way to the surface of the Red Planet. The rover used the camera on the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to capture dozens of composite images in this self-portrait as the rover dug into a sandstone target called “Windjana.”

“It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars Exploration Program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. “The ultimate goal is to find out if life evolved on Mars, if it existed in the past or even today.”

To do this, Curiosity was launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral. After its months-long journey through space, the 2,000-pound, vehicle-sized rover landed inside the 3.7-billion-year-old, 100-mile-wide Gale Crater and began its systematic exploration of the surface of Mars.

JPL systems engineer Sophia Mitchell spoke about her job as an “Uber space driver,” driving the Curiosity rover from more than 100 million miles away.

“It’s definitely a dream job,” she said. “I’m an aeronautical engineer, but I really think of myself as an explorer, so the ultimate exploration mission in my mind is to pilot a huge science robot on a different planet.”

Mars Science Laboratory project scientist Ashwin Vasavada said:

“It plays a special role in NASA’s Mars Exploration Program,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. “The ultimate goal is to find out if life evolved on Mars, if it existed in the past or even today.” The red planet above was photographed in a NASA release

NASA scientists say that the now dusty planet Mars was once covered in bodies of water - an indication that this barren planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do so.  The Curiosity rover captured this panorama (above) of the red planet

NASA scientists say that the now dusty planet Mars was once covered in bodies of water – an indication that this barren planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do so. The Curiosity rover captured this panorama (above) of the red planet

What the spacecraft learned helped scientists paint a picture of what the planet looked like billions of years ago. The answer is that the now dusty planet Mars was covered in bodies of water – an indication that this barren planet may have once been host to some form of life, or at least had the ability to do so.

This possibility was reinforced by Curiosity’s discovery of organic molecules that were found while drilling in shallow parts of the planet’s surface. The team talked excitedly about future missions, such as the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, which will be able to dig deeper than Curiosity’s instruments allow.

While the past decade has been full of discoveries, it has also been fraught with challenges. What was supposed to be a two-year mission was extended indefinitely and Curiosity began to show its age, with wear on the wheels and potholes not working the way they did before.

As Mitchell pointed out, when something breaks on Mars, we can’t send someone there to fix it. We just have to know how to use what we have in order to be able to do what we want.

Although robots have visited our nearest celestial neighbor, it is a journey that no human has been able to take yet.

The team has enthusiastically endorsed the possibility of humanity one day reaching Mars, a trip that will be backed up by vital radiation data collected by Curiosity — and possibly with the help of the Elon Musk spacecraft, after it successfully completed an orbital launch test and brought people to the moon first.

“I can only say I wish you would go to Mars,” Vasavada said to a curious child chosen to ask a question. “We look forward to seeing you on Mars one day and I can tell you that Curiosity will help protect you.”

As Mitchell pointed out, when something breaks on Mars, we can't send someone there to fix it.  We just have to know how to use what we have in order to be able to do what we want.  This is an artist's concept of a NASA Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars

As Mitchell pointed out, when something breaks on Mars, we can’t send someone there to fix it. We just have to know how to use what we have in order to be able to do what we want. This is an artist’s concept of a NASA Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars

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