Curiosity on Mars for 10 years: the friendly neighborhood rover

© NASA / JPL-Caltech

Six years of development, nearly two billion euros, eight months of space flight, and then Curiosity landed on Mars ten years ago. Technically, the Rover has already been overtaken by the successor to “Perseverance” – but the audience favorite is still going on.


Curiosity on Twitter is very modest: the team describes the robot as “NASA’s friendly neighborhood rover on Mars” – with over 4.3 million fans on the social platform alone, Curiosity is so much more. The rover, which landed ten years ago on Saturday (August 6), inspired scientists and fans around the world with its scientific research on the red planet, refined NASA’s image – and laid the groundwork for the further development of Mars exploration.

Curiosity has long since achieved the mission originally set by NASA: to roll through the Gale crater on Mars for two years? Ready. Proof that life on the Red Planet was once possible? Ready. The duration of the mission has just officially been extended for three years, but is already unofficially listed as “as long as possible”. There are always minor issues, especially with the wheels, but the rover is “solidly built” and – given what it has been through – it’s in good condition, according to his team.

Curiosity has long since completed its Mars checklist

That Curiosity’s arrival to Mars – after six years of development, almost two billion euros, eight months of space flight and a complicated landing maneuver – worked so smoothly ten years ago at the control center in Pasadena, California, for applause, applause and tears of joy. “I feel like we’re at the Olympics,” said control center director Charles Elachi at the time. “And this team just won gold.” The then US President Barack Obama hailed the landing “an unprecedented technological feat.” “Today, the United States has made history on Mars.”

Shortly thereafter, a six-wheeled rover, weighing about 900 kilograms and the size of a small car, sent the first coarse-grained images to the ground, which caused more storms of enthusiasm. Later, the nuclear powered rover began to roll, sending more and more photos in higher resolution and arranging its scientific instruments. For example, Curiosity can take soil samples and analyze them in its own laboratory. The rover also has several cameras, a laser, a weather station, a radiation meter and an on-board hydrogen detection device.

Comprehensive on-board functions

Meanwhile, Curiosity has already sent over 950,000 photos to Earth – and it has helped science get a lot of information. At the start of the mission, NASA promised “discoveries beyond our imaginations.”

Thanks in part to a sophisticated and award-winning social media strategy, the Rover continues to be popular, but is technically obsolete. In November, the stationary lander “Insight” arrived on Mars, last year the rover “Perseverance” (staying power), a kind of “Curiosity 2.0”. Perseverance records audio and video, even has a small helicopter, and is expected to send a sample from Mars back to Earth.

perseverance nasa mars mission
Curiosity Perseverance’s “offspring” have also been on Mars for almost a year and a half. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

However, the two rovers are not competitors, but complement each other, emphasizes NASA – and recently Curiosity wrote to Perseverance via Twitter: “Thank you for joining me to find new ways to understand our universe. Exploring uncharted territory is a little easier when you know your friend shares the same world. “

[Christina Horsten]

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