The Mars rover Curiosity has NASA and researchers alike sitting on the edge of their seats as the car-sized robotic explorer traipses across Mars’ Gale Crater. The $2.5 billion NASA creation has landed on the Red Planet, playing a pre-recorded congratulatory message from NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, and already has some spectacular views to share. The mission team released a 360-degree panorama of the Mars rover Curiosity landing site, sharing images of the Gale Crater foothills and a Martian sky.
Curiosity landed Aug. 5 and will be exploring Gale Crater for the next two years, with hopes of finding signs of life on Mars. According to Fox News, the Mars rover will ultimately be exploring the base of Gale Crater’s Mount Sharp, where a Mars-orbiting spacecraft has eyed evidence of previous exposure to liquid water. Though John Grotzinger, Curiosty lead scientist, says reaching Mount Sharp is still a year away, he expressed excitement over the promising landing site.
“I think when those of us on the science team looked at this image for the first time, you get the feeling, ‘That’s what I’m talking about,” Grotzinger said, according to Fox News. “That is why we picked this landing site.”
The Mars rover Curiosity tracks have made scientists reminisce over Neil Armstrong’s memorable footprints made on the moon over 40 years ago. Neil Armstrong, who passed away last Saturday at the age of 82, and Buzz Aldrin were the first to leave human footprints (bootprints, to be exact) on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. The tracks of the rover are the robotic version of Armstrong and Aldrin’s groundbreaking marks and resemble the same hope of continuing exploration and discovery.
Bolden remarks, “Since the beginning of time, humankind’s curiosity has led us to constantly seek new life possibilities just beyond the horizon.” Mars rover Curiosity, appropriately named, is doing just that.