Lonely Curiosity rover sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to itself on Mars


A composite photo of the Gale Crater, stitched together from nearly 900 images taken by the Curiosity rover. (AP Photo/NASA)

NASA’s Curiosity Rover just celebrated the galaxy’s loneliest birthday, “singing” to itself in a Martian crater, 208 million miles from home.

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the rover’s landing on the Red Planet, and to celebrate, NASA scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt programmed it to play a little tune. It’s not “playing,” technically -- as NASA technologist Florence Tan explains in an accompanying video, the rover's sample analysis unit vibrates at different frequencies to move soil samples. Normally, those vibrations sound remarkably like the noises robots make in Disney’s Wall-E, but when you string them all together, something similar to “Happy Birthday” results. (Fun trivia: Warner/Chappell owns the copyright to the “Happy Birthday” song -- but maybe not in space.)

In its first year on Mars, Curiosity has taken more than 70,000 images, fired more than 75,000 laser shots to check soil and rock composition, and driven … an entire mile. While that may not seem very far, NASA says it’s enough to determine that Mars could have once supported life and to lay the groundwork for a future manned mission to Mars.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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