A Curious Incident - Mars Rover Throws a Party

Birthdays are not purely a human thing, they are not even a tradition exclusive to Earth. Around 225 million km from our little blue planet, one incredible robot celebrated it's first anniversary of space exploration, by serenading itself with a Happy Birthday song.

Curiosity landed on Mars over a year ago, on 5th August to be precise. Still in its galactic infancy, this amazing little rover has already achieved a lot, exploring the surface of Mars in splendid isolation.

Curiosity has been filling its time on Mars drilling, roaming the red planet and sending endless photos back home. Among the images of red sand and rocks, N.A.S.A.'s rover has already broken new ground in its exploration to analyse Mars' potential to support microbial life. The little adventurer is now on its way to the huge and mysterious mountain of Mount Sharp.

"We're currently on our way to Mount Sharp, which is about six or seven miles away. We are maybe a tenth of the way there now," said John Grotzinger, the chief scientist in the Curiosity mission. "It could take seven or eight months to get there, so the mission now is drive-drive-drive."

"We've had a great mission," he added. "The first hole we drilled - the first hole drilled on another planet by a robot - turned up exactly what we were looking for. Having that box ticked off so soon in the mission makes us much more relaxed. We never thought it would happen so soon."

But on Monday, N.A.S.A. decided to give the intergalactic rambler the celebration it deserved. They marked the passing of a very decidedly Earth year, by playing with S.A.M., Curiosity’s double back on Earth. They have long known certain programs make S.A.M vibrate and make a noise, so they set a programme to make S.A.M play a  tune, a special birthday tune.

You just know someone in HQ said “play it again Sam”, in their best Humphrey Bogart voice. 

They then perfected the little ditty before sending the instructions to Mars. As participants at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory enjoyed snacks, jazz music and a presentation of the missions progress, Curiosity sang out a lonely rendition of Happy Birthday into the unknown vast of space.

It all sounds so cool, even if Curiosity didn't get to join in the party. 

Words by Mairi Harris