NASA’s Curiosity Rover Has Birthday [Photos]

The Curiosity rover, also called the science laboratory, launched by NASA in 2011 just celebrated its 5th anniversary on Earth’s neighboring planet Mars. Sunday was the official birthday for the explorer and to celebrate NASA released a host of videos of the craft’s last five years.

On its first birthday the rover hummed “Happy Birthday” to itself, something it hasn’t done since, it clarified on its Twitter account. “The reports of my singing are greatly exaggerated. I only hummed ‘Happy Birthday’ to myself once, back in 2013,” read the tweet from the rover.

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Over the last five years the rover has spent most of its time traveling the red planet and exploring its surface specifically on the mountain side of the Gale crater on Mars. The rover has been exploring to discover whether or not ancient Mars may have been able to support life. The crater spans 96 miles on the planet and Curiosity has traveled over 10 miles so far on the planet.

A time lapse video compiled of photos taken by the rover shows what it has encountered during its five years on the planet and the path it’s taken across the crater as well. It’s traversed sand and rock and taken rock samples and more than 200,000 photos along the way.

All of this travel has led to the conclusion from researchers back home that Mars likely supported life at some point. This is possible because it may have had ancient rivers, lakes and deltas where water ran. There’s also mineral evidence that groundwater once trickled across the surface of Mars. Researchers believe that the crater was habitable millions of years ago.

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The rover only travels about 100 feet per hour, which is why in the last five years it’s only gone about 10 miles. But the rover, that’s about the size of a large car, can conduct air and soil tests right on board to determine the origins of some of the matter. It’s specifically on the hunt for rocks that look like they formed in water, according to NASA. It then transmits the data back to Earth. There are 10 science experiments it can conduct and it is equipped with 17 cameras and a laser that can vaporize rock. The craft has even taken a few selfies, or self portraits, while traveling.

CuriositySelfie This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at “Namib Dune,” where the rover’s activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Curiosity rover isn’t alone on Mars. NASA has launched other rovers in the past although they are on different areas of the planet. The Opportunity rover landed Jan. 24, 2004 and is still roving and sending back information to Earth. It’s been stationary since July because of solar conjunction conditions but will connect back with NASA afterwards for instructions. The Spirit rover landed Jan. 4, 2004 and roamed until 2010, sending back data the whole time. It was primarily in the Gusev Crater on the planet.

nasa opportunity rover NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released to Reuters July 29, 2014. Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the old benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. Photo: Reuters/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State University/Handout

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