Science & Astronomy
26. June 2014

Last year, the Curiosity Rover celebrated its first Earth year on Mars, but on Monday the Mars Science Laboratory actually completed its first Martian year – has it really been that long already? It feels like it was yesterday when the rover performed a hair-raising landing perfectly, but since then Curiosity has been hard at work learning about the planet, discovering, amongst many other amazing things, without a doubt that there was once flowing water on Mars. The prime mission is now over after 669 Mars days, at least on paper – but the rover is still healthy despite being a little dusty and having some holes in its wheels. Curiosity’s great exploration adventure on Mars will continue together with its smaller relative Opportunity, which has already been on the planet for a decade!

As usual, the press and media has gone somewhat quiet about the Mars missions, partly because they have become downright common. Driving a truck-size laboratory millions of kilometers away on another planet in the solar system and performing science? No biggie! That would be different, of course, if Curiosity had found some definitive signs of life, which would be a sensation – but even the discovery of a past environment in which life could have been possible were not really able to raise much interest except from the science-heavy media outlets. Rule one seems to be: only report on it big time when something breaks! Remember when Curiosity had landed and one of the wind sensors didn’t work properly? It was just a footnote and has never been a problem in the whole mission, but Spiegel Online reported on it almost gleefully with the headline “Lädiertes Mars-Auto startet Expedition”“Damaged Mars Car starts Expedition”, making a very big fuss about the one instrument the rover was really able to do without. Sadly, this is only one of many examples of shoddy reporting not only in the German media.

If real science happens, you always have to look elsewhere. Even Universe Today has slowed down the reporting about Curiosity, but if there’s one source that has it all then it’s Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society. Her in-depth reporting about the rover’s mission – and also its smaller cousin Opportunity – is absolutely fascinating and still not too technical as to be unreadable by a non-scientist. This has a very personal reason: last year, she had announced that she is writing a book about Curiosity, which will be published at the end of this year, covering the prime mission. This will be an amazing book, but even before it comes out, Emily is still the number one source for all things Mars exploration.

To celebrate the Marsiversary, you can look at the fresh images coming almost daily from the red planed (best seen via or, watch the Virtual Landing Party from 2012, last year’s hangout with almost the same people reminiscing about the landing or last year’s Planetary Society Hangout with Emily Lakdawalla. There are no big hangouts this year, mainly because everyone’s somewhat busy at the beginning of the summer, but Scott Lewis has done a short, but great video for Space Fan News.

Last, but not least I have just updated my old Mars Link Collection for this occasion, which I had last done all the way back in August 2013 – it’s still somewhat valid, but it needed some work. And just for fun to close the article, here are two images of a fake and the real Curiosity:

My LEGO Curiosity Rover, which I built at the beginning of the year.

Curiosity’s latest self-portrait at the Windjana site, a cropped version of the original.

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