Exactly one year ago, one Earth year to be precise, the Mars Rover Curiosity landed on Mars. During what were called seven minutes of terror the complex landing system used for the first time brought the largest and most sophisticated robot sent so far on the red planet to its surface.
The arrival was indeed a critical moment because the spacecraft carrying Curiosity was traveling at about 21,000 km/h (about 13,000 mph) and Mars atmosphere is very thin so friction wouldn’t be enough to slow it down. Everything worked well and the Mars Rover Curiosity could start a mission that has already achieved excellent results.
This first year of the Mars Rover Curiosity began with tests of its many instruments. Despite this, several traces have already been found that water flowed on Mars and of the ancient atmosphere of the planet. Some clues had been found by other probes and the previous Mars Rovers but Curiosity can make more numerous and more thorough analyzes therefore is proving beyond doubt that about four billion years ago Mars was much more like Earth.
The mission of the Mars Rover Curiosity has also had the greatest coverage on the Internet by NASA. Many thousands of images but also many videos have been made available on NASA’s website and promoted through various social networks. A subsection of the NASA’s site area dedicated to the Curiosity mission has now been dedicated to this first anniversary of this rover’s arrival. There aren’t only celebratory pictures and videos but also the opportunity to participate in an interactive way in the celebrations.
Despite the just pride with which the Mars Rover Curiosity mission is already considered a triumph, it’s in fact still in its initial phase. The duration of the primary mission is one Martian year, about two Earth years. In the coming months, it will continue its journey to Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons. The researchers expect new confirmation of the fact that ancient Mars was potentially habitable but obviously the discovery of traces of life forms would be the supreme triumph for space research.
The mission of the Mars Rover Curiosity has also brought new interest in the exploration of Mars. In the coming years the launch of various NASA missions to the red planet is scheduled: the Maven (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiter in autumn 2013 to study the Martian atmosphere, the lander InSight in 2016 to study the Martian geology and another rover similar to Curiosity in 2020 to continue the research on the Martian surface, also of life forms. ESA is planning to send its ExoMars rover in 2018 in collaboration with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. India also has plans to launch its own space probe to Mars in November 2013.
In short, in the coming years Mars is likely to become a rather crowded planet. This could be just the start as if the success will continue, in the next decade an international collaboration could finally begin to send humans to Mars. For now let’s enjoy the photos sent by NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity.