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August 6, 2013

Celebrate One Year of Curiosity On Mars

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Written by: Jason Rabinowitz
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Billion-Pixel View From Curiosity at Rocknest, Raw Color

One year ago today, NASA’s nuclear-powered Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity epically landed landed on mars in the most absolutely of dramatic fashion. The “sky crane” landing, dubbed “7 minutes of terror,” required the transformation into six different configurations, all of which worked exactly as intended. Since landing, Curiosity has found evidence of extraterrestrial water, discovered traces of carbon-based materials, taken absolutely breathtaking images from the surface, and tweeted #pewpew numerous times after firing its laser.

NASA ranks Curiosity’s top 5 discoveries so far as follows:

1. Ancient Mars could have the right chemistry to have supported living microbes. Curiosity found carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur – key ingredients necessary for life – by studying many rocks that formed in water.
2. Evidence of an Ancient Streambed- Smooth and rounded rocks found by Curiosity likely rolled downstream for at least a few miles.
3. Radiation could pose a risk for humans- During her trip to Mars, Curiosity experienced radiation levels exceeding NASA’s career limit for astronauts.
4. The lack of methane- Curiosity has sniffed the Martian air and found no methane present. Given that living organisms produce methane, scientists were keen to see if they could find it on Mars, but the search continues!
5. Major diversity of environments near the landing area- Scientists did not expect the richness and diversity of soil and rock types at Gale Crater. Curiosity has found gravels, streambed deposits, an unusual type of possibly volcanic rock, water-transported sand dunes, mudstones, and cracks filled with mineral veins. All of these are clues to Mars’ watery past.

ENOUGH SCIENCE, ITS TIME TO CELEBRATE! At 10:45am ET, NASA JPL will stream its first anniversary event, highlighting the past years events. You should probably watch, because, well, NASA has a rover the size of a car driving around Mars firing lasers. There will be cake.

Live streaming video by Ustream

About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz



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