Skip to main content

NASA Celebrates Curiosity Rover’s 1st Year on Mars (Photos)

Dan McCleese Gives Curiosity's First Birthday Celebration Opening Remarks

JPL chief scientist Dan McCleese provided the opening remarks for Curiosity: One Year on Mars.

Chief Scientist Introduces First Panel

JPL chief scientist Dan McCleese introduces the first panel.

NASA’s Celebrates Curiosity Rover’s First Birthday on Mars

From left: Former Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project manager Pete Theisinger, MSL flight system manager Matt Wallace, MSL flight dynamics and operations lead for entry, descent and landing Allen Chen and MSL engineering operations team Jessica Samuels. Wallace recalls a difficult time in 2011 when the rover was "up on the blocks."

Flight System Manager Looks Back on Challenges With Rover

MSL flight system manager Matt Wallace describes the photo above his head when they were having issues with the rover: "We were pulling boxes out -- electronic boxes -- because we were worried about some of these boxes having a noise vulnerability that could have ended the mission during the entry, descent and landing phase that you saw us so successfully go through a year ago today."

Panel Looks Back During Curiosity’s First Birthday Celebration

From left: MSL project scientist John Grotzinger, Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) principal investigator Ken Edgett, MSL science team Bethany Ehlmann and MSL deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada.

Investigator Discusses Gale Crater

MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett talks about the Gale Crater, which he has been looking at for 14 years: "Gale, by some magical erosional process, has somewhat exhumed itself and left behind this remnant, this mountain that's 3 miles, or 5 kilometers, high of layered sedimentary rock. We went there thinking that every layer is a page in a history book and we can go there and see not only are there habitable environments recorded in there but how did the environments change over time. As you go up the mountain, we will see the time getting closer and closer to now — and still a long time ago — but it'll get younger and younger."

Third Panel Talks About Curiosity Rover at Celebration

From left: JPL news and social media manager Veronica McGregor, MSL flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, MSL EDL phase lead Adam Steltzner and MSL parachute systems engineer Anita Sengupta. One of the tweets Sengupta received was about how to get more girls interested in engineering and science. In her spare time, she does outreach that specifically addresses that. She went to Boston University where she met with all the engineering students and talked about Curiosity.

Bobak Ferdowsi on Famous Mohawk and Science

MSL flight director Bobak Ferdowsi says that he received a few texts from friends who saw articles about his hair on the internet. He's doing work now to encourage and supporting students to get involved with science. "It's been an incredible experience. I think one of the amazing things for me is showing kids that you can look ridiculous and still be an engineer … I think kids are naturally super excited but they don't have something to latch onto always. It's been awesome for me to feel like I can actually contribute." And every once in awhile, he'll get a tweet or photo from a parent whose kid has a mohawk. "I hope I'm not a bad influence," he adds.

Chief Engineer Discusses Curiosity’s Future

MSL chief engineer Rob Manning talks about the next big thing for Curiosity: "Most exciting thing coming up is reaching the foothills and canyons, where all this wonderful layered terrain is. When we get up there and you see these walls these mountains on each side of you, with incredible wind-carved structures -- this is an area that has been exposed to wind and the elements for hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years. So that does something to terrain, even though the atmosphere is thin, over time you see interesting wind carved structures, it is likely to be a very dramatically beautiful place. And of course we won't get our hopes up, but maybe in these places we might find residual organic residue from a time on Mars when organics were playing a role in Mars ecology. It’s a tough thing to find, but we are looking."

Hot Wheels Mars Rover Curiosity Toy

After the panel discussions, a celebration took place on the JPL mall. It included ice cream and a free Hot Wheels Mars Rover Curiosity toy. Engineer Chester Lim says he's going to keep his in its original packaging.

JPL Jazz Curiosities Perform at Curiosity Celebration

There was also live music by a band that had never played together until this celebration and dubbed themselves "JPL Jazz Curiosities."

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.