This artist’s concept depicts the Curiosity rover using its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements.
The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration.
Mars rover Curiosity landed on the red planet one year ago today, so we here at Popular Science figured we’d take a look back at the journey. It’s not an easy trip to summarize, since Curiosity marked a ton of firsts: only the discovery of the Higgs Boson rivaled it for biggest science story of 2012. But in case you need a refresher on just how big of a story the landing was, here’s a reminder, courtesy of Google search trends for “mars curiosity rover”:
The crests roughly correspond to Curiosity’s greatest hits: there’s the landing itself, the result of years of planning and engineering; the scientific analyses, which taught us more about another planet than we’ve ever known; and, man, the photos, which we droolingly awaited to be beamed back home. In all, according to NASA, Curiosity has sent back more than 70,000 images and shot a rock-blasting laser 75,000 times. Not bad, considering it has only gone a mile on its entire journey.
Here are 10 highlights from Curiosity’s first year on Mars, but there were many more we could’ve added, and we’re sure there will be many more to come.
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