Ever since Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, the potential for cosmic discovery has seemed as vast and boundless as space itself. Yet there are limits to where humans can travel in the galaxy, and so we use robotics to push past those limits and report back. You may have heard of NASA’s car-sized robotic rover, Curiosity.
Curiosity’s mission is to help us learn more about the geology and climate on Mars, determine whether the planet does of could have ever sustained life, and pave the way for human exploration. It’s outfitted with 17 high resolution cameras to scope out intriguing geological features. If it finds something, Curiosity uses a laser, a microscope and an X-ray to examine further, then obtain and analyze a sample in one of its two laboratories.
Within 15 minutes, Curiosity can send photo findings back to Earth via several orbiting satellites. That means we can see Earth as a bright light in the Martian night sky, watch a time-lapse of the rover’s first year of exploration, and even check out a cute Curiosity ‘selfie’.
This week, you can even catch a glimpse of Mars from your backyard. On the night of April 14, Mars will appear in the sky just above the Moon, which will appear red due to a total lunar eclipse. April 12 is also when you can celebrate Yuri’s Night in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to launch up and out of Earth’s atmosphere and explore outer space.