Remember this famously sad xkcd comic about the Mars Spirit rover?
Today we may have something that's even sadder than that.
It was four years ago that Curiosity landed on Mars (I remember, because I was writing the Masters of Evil review while watching it happen live; such is the way my memory organizes itself). So in honor of its birthday, we're reviewing the toy today.
Born: August, 2012
Birthplace: Pasadena, CA, USA
Specialty: This car-sized rover is actually a wheeled robot, rocket-launched to Mars in 2011. Curiosity carries many tools such as a drill, cameras, and a laser. Its mission: to see if Mars could have ever supported small life forms called microbes... or if humans could explore there someday!
Proving that science is awesome, space doctors used exploding dinosaurs to throw a metal tube into the sky. That was on November 11, 2011. Eight months and 350 million miles later, their payload touched down only a mile and a half from its intended target. That's some Hawkeye/Bullseye level shiz, right there! It's hard to judge scale by looking at a Hot Wheels toy, but the real Curiosity weighs almost a ton and is 10 feet long - it may just look like a white box on wheels, but it truly is the size of a normal car.
The official NASA logo is tampographed on the front of the vehicle, and since the standard Hot Wheels-style wheels prevent them from actually attaching to the spokes on the sides of the rover, the underside is cast from translucent plastic so that we might better ignore it. This review is actually the second release, from 2014 - you can tell because now the tires are dusty rather than pristine. They're just smooth wheels, not the ridged kind the real rover has, but at this scale they probably would have been hard to see. Lots of Curiosity's fancy science equipment is sculpted on, but only the mast moves (it turns in a circle, allowing the rover to look around and learn).
So, I promised you sad. One of Curiosity's scientific devices subjects any samples it collects to a series of frequencies, to see how it reacts. In other words, it makes noise. So its makers programmed it, once a year on its birthday and completely alone millions of miles from home, to sing "Happy Birthday" to itself:
That day is today. It might be singing as you read this.