Ever since 1969, space explorations has been so repetitive; it’s just rocket after rocket to launch a new satellite or fix some parts on the International Space Station. Where has the sense of real adventure gone? Space is such a vast frontier and we have yet to really discover what’s on that strange red planet so close to our humble home. Now there is a new scout to re-kindle our desire to roam the wild outer worlds.
Curiosity is definitely not the first machine to land on Mars or even to survive and communicate back to the homebase. That title belongs to the Sojourner rover riding on the Mars Pathfinder; it landed on July 4th, 1997 and lost connection on September 27th of the same year. The Spirit rover landed right after the New Year of 2004 on January 4th and roamed almost 5 miles of the Mars landscape until its wheels got stuck in the sand on January 26th 6 years later; it stayed active there for another two months before communication was lost permanently. The Spirit had a companion on the red planet, the Opportunity, that has stayed active and rolling even today.
Curiosity is the latest in a great line of Mars rovers from NASA’s space exploration program and is definitely a machine on a mission. This special space robot’s objective is to essentially determine if life was or will be sustainable based on data gathered from the lonely planet’s soil, the possible existence of water, and climate measurements all analyzed by this not-so-little innovation in aerospace engineering.
As you can see from the picture above, this is way more than chunk of metal with a webcam and some wheels slapped on it. This one ton tribute to scientific dedication to space contains over 80 pounds of data-gathering instruments alone. Curiosity’s 17 different cameras, ranging in a multitude of megapixels for the tedious tasks ahead, makes sure there is never a blind moment on Mars. NASA has also perfected the transportation abilities of the latest rover with 6 wheels in total that are bigger than previous iterations to avoid a Spirit issue.
Landing on Mars is not really an exact science, so trying to assume what the conditions will be like and how to handle them is a huge consideration in designing the capsule containing the precious rover cargo. While the diagram above looks like a simple float down through the atmosphere, the container is trying to slow down from 13,000 miles per hour to zero in order to land safely and not be burned up in the process.
The next few photos are some of the first from when Curiosity landed within a mile of its mission target and has progressed through its bits of testing and collecting since then. The first is a briefly black and white shot of the surface, the next is the first high-resolution color photo, and the last one is the first panorama shot from the spacebot.
This landing is another great milestone in not just the United States but human history as well, for it may just be the first small step for exploration and one giant leap towards colonization. Enjoy the the landing video below and comment on what you hope is for the future of Mars.