NASA's Curiosity Rover celebrates a lonely and quiet sixth birthday on Mars

Contrary to reports that Curiosity sings itself 'Happy Birthday' every year, that feat happened only once in 2013.


Sixth birthdays are special, and are often marked with a certain degree of pomp. But for NASA's car-sized Curiosity Rover designed to explore the Gale Crater on Mars, it was a cold, lonely and quiet sixth landing anniversary on Sunday, which the probe celebrated with the quintessential gift of Iron Oxide.

(Iron Oxide is what makes the Red Planet red, as the Curiosity Rover explained in its birthday tweet.)

On its first birthday, the rover sang itself the Happy Birthday song, which had taken the Internet by storm. But contrary to all the memes and news reports that suggest it sings itself the song every fifth of August, the Curiosity Rover hasn't actually sung itself the song since that one time in 2013.

The reason? Battery saving, said Florence Tan, electrical lead engineer for Curiosity’s sample-analysis unit. "In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars." Doing so uses power, and the rover’s nuclear battery has a very limited supply of that. Essentially, singing “Happy birthday” to itself would lower the number of birthdays that Curiosity celebrates on Mars.

But that doesn't mean Curiosity has stopped doing cool things beyond the spectacular science it has been pushing all these years.

In June, as a raging Martian storm engulfed most of the planet, Curiosity managed to send an amazing self-portrait (or selfie, if you insist) from the Red Planet to NASA just before the dust storm.

The Curiosity Rover was launched from Cape Canaveral on 26 November, 2011 aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft, and had landed on Aeolis Palus in the Gale Crater on Mars on 6 August, 2012. The landing was a massive success for NASA, as the Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 kilometres from the centre of the rover's touchdown target, after a 560 million-kilometre-journey.

The goals of this mission include an investigation of the Martian climate and geology, assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and planetary habitability studies in preparation for human exploration.


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