NASA's Curiosity Rover Turns One on Mars

The rover has been on Mars for an entire year, and she's just getting started on her journey

2 min read
NASA's Curiosity Rover Turns One on Mars

Depending on what time zone you're in, today is the first anniversary (or birthday) of Curiosity, NASA's intrepid little Volkswagen-sized Mars rover. We've got a soft spot for Curiosity, partially because it's one of the most awesome robots ever constructed, but also because we were camped out at JPL to watch her land last year. The picture above is of a TV monitor in the JPL press room, showing the first two images that we got back from the surface of Mars. It was epic.

NASA and JPL are celebrating this week with some cool videos, the last of which has to be one of the most touching tributes to a robot we've ever heard.

 

You remember how crazy the landing was, right?

I still cannot believe that it worked so flawlessly.

 

And what has Curiosity been up to for the last year? This video condenses 12 months of images taken in "rover's eye view" down into two minutes:

 

This final video is just... I don't even know how to describe how incredibly, stupendously incredible and stupendous this is.

All alone, on the surface of Mars, Curiosity is going to play herself happy birthday using a special sequence of vibrations from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. If you were standing next to her on Mars, you'd actually hear it, and then you could sing along and give the robot a big warm hug.

Of course, nobody is there to hear this song. It's just this brave robot all by herself, turning one, very very far away.

We wish her many, many more birthdays, and eventually, we hope that a human in a space suit will bring her a cake, tell her what a good job she did, and then bring her back home.

[ Happy Birthday Curiosity ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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