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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Happy First Anniversary, Curiosity!

By Phil Plait

One year ago today, millions of people held their breath as we waited word on whether or not NASA had successfully landed another rover on Mars. Unlike earlier probes, this one had a lot of publicity going in, with the crazy Rube Goldberg landing sequence immortalized in a video called âSeven Minutes of Terrorâ.

On August 6, 2012, at 05:17 UTCâjust after midnight Eastern US time, but August 5 to the westâthat one-ton, nuclear-powered, laser-eyed rolling contraption gently touched the Martian dust, marking the end of a nine-month journey over hundreds of million of kilometers, and the beginning of one much shorter, but no less dramatic: The quest to explore the surface of Mars.

To mark the anniversary, NASA and JPL released this video showing a year in the life of Curiosity, a series of images taken through its front HAZCAM. You can watch as the rover moves around, uses its drill, and shows us what itâs like to be on another world.

I was debating what to write for this moment, and realized Iâve already written so much itâs probably easier just to point you to those earlier words. Below are a few posts Iâve written over the course of the year, pointing out interesting images, videos, news, and science from Mars. Itâs hard to believe itâs been a year, but then, a lot can happen in that time. Curiosityâs been busy, and will continue to be until the end of its nominal mission in another year. I expect the mission will get extended; itâs a lot cheaper now to continue the voyage than it was to initiate it.

And there is a whole lot left to learn on Mars. Itâs another planet, another world, and weâve seen only a tiny portion of it.

Curiosity Posts

On the way down:

Landing on Mars: Seven Minutes of Terror
OK, One More Curiosity Descent Video
Watch As Curiosity Gently Touches Down and Its Heat Shield Slams Into Mars
VIDEO of Curiosityâs Descent⦠from the Rover Cam Itself!
Mars Orbiter Catches Pic of Curiosity on Its Way Down!

On the surface:

Curiosity Landing Site: The Whole Mess
Gallery: Curiosityâs Triumphant First Week on Mars
Mars Probe Sees Other Mars Probe on Mars
Curiosityâs Parachute Flaps in the Martian Wind
Curiosityâs Looking a Little Blue
Curiosity Rolls!
Curiosityâs Self-Portrait
Curiosity Got Shaved?
Standing on Mars
The Single Greatest Vacation Picture Ever Taken     
Now You Will Feel the Power of a Fully Armed and Operational Mars Rover
Pew! Pew! Take That, Mars!
Curiosityâs Chem Lab on Mars
Curiosity Finds Cool Chemistry on Mars but No Organics
Ancient Mars Had Conditions Suitable for Life
Clues to the Past Atmosphere of Mars (on NASA site)

The NASA JPL site has an archive of all the news press releases theyâve put out, and itâs well worth your time reading them. Weâve learned a lot about the area of Mars in which Curiosity is rolling, but up until now most of the news has been about the rover itself. As time goes on, the science will flow faster, and our mysterious next-door neighbor will become one of our closest and best-known friends.

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