Mars Curiosity rover celebrates loneliest birthday ever by singing 'Happy Birthday to Me'

The rover has already succeeded in its main mission, showing that ancient Mars could have supported life

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The Independent Online

There might not have been anyone around to hear it, but yesterday a very familiar tune played out across the surface of Mars. To celebrate the one year anniversary of landing on the surface of red planet, Nasa engineers managed to coax a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday To You’ out of the 2,000lb Curiosity rover.

“Curiosity landed on Mars on August 5th, 2012. It was born on Mars that day, and so we consider that day as its birthday,” said Florence Tan, lead electrical engineer of SAM, the rover’s onboard chemistry lab responsible for analysing soil samples.

Tan and her teams have marked the loneliest birthday ever by programming motors within SAM (it stands for Soil Analysis at Mars) to vibrate at the certain frequencies, creating a buzzing rendition of the well-known tune.

Although there’s no recording of Curiosity’s celebrations, the video below shows the tune played on SAM’s earthly twin – an exact duplicate of the machinery contained within Curiosity that’s used to trial experiments before sending instructions up to Mars.

Although Curiosity’s birthday is solely a terrestrial celebration (an actual Mars year is equal to 686.89 Earth days) NASA have a lot to celebrate about the rover’s mission.

Curiosity has already completed its prime goal – proving that an ancient Mars could have supported life – but has also sent back to Earth more than 190 gigabits of data; fired more than 75,000 laser shots to investigate the composition of the planet’s rocks, and analysed sample material (using SAM) from two different locations.


"Successes of our Curiosity -- that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then -- advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Wheel tracks now, will lead to boot prints later."

The rover has so far travelled about one mile across the surface of the planet, and is now headed towards the base of Mount Sharp – a three mile high mountain which offers new geological samples for the car-sized robot to analyse.

"We now know Mars offered favourable conditions for microbial life billions of years ago," said John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, the mission's lead project scientist. "It has been gratifying to succeed, but that has also whetted our appetites to learn more. We hope those enticing layers at Mount Sharp will preserve a broad diversity of other environmental conditions that could have affected habitability."

More facts and pictures to celebrate Curiosity's first birthdays can be seen here, on Nasa's website.