Mars rover Curiosity (Photo: NASA/JPL)
We live in a time when tools aiding petty forms of narcissism abound. Selfies facilitated by camera phones or phone cameras are a great example. However, it strikes me that if there is one selfie which is perhaps most well-deserved, it is the one above of Mars rover Curiosity’s.
Yesterday, Curiosity completed its first Martian year on the planet. A Martian year is 687 Erath days. It takes Mars those many days to complete one orbit of the sun. In that one Martian year, Curiosity has been remarkably successful in meeting its goal. As Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist on the Curiosity mission, explains, the rover’s goal in that time was to find a “habitable environment” which it did. “We found a lakebed on Mars that we drilled into and found the ingredients and conditions that could have supported microbial life, if life ever was on Mars,” Dr. Vasavada says in a NASA video.
As achievements that justify taking a selfie and propagating it go, this one is eminent.
If I were a Martian being who wondered whether I am alone in the universe, that question would have been answered in the negative so firmly so many times because of the various probes which have landed there. It would have been particularly awesome (now that is a correct use of the word awesome) to find a probe like Curiosity digging holes on my planet’s surface. As a representative of the human civilization, Curiosity is a very impressive probe. It is the ChemCam and the MastCam , the cameras that together look like the head of the rover, make it appear like a possibly live creature.
In 687 Earth days the rover has driven about eight kilometers which may seem terribly small. However, when you consider that its mission is to do serious science through rock and soil samples, you understand the deliberate pace of its movement. In any case, it already traveled 204 million kilometers (127 million miles), the distance between us and Mars at the time of the launch, to get where it had to be. It is not in a pointless NASCAR race.
I don’t know about you but I remain captivated by the Curiosity mission.