Happy Birthday, Curiosity!

It's hard to believe that it was just one year ago that I sat, like millions of others, gripped by the coverage of Curiosity's harrowing descent to the Martian surface.   But, it's true - the Mars Science Laboratory has now spent one Earth year roving the surface of the red planet.  That's only half of its planned mission duration of one Martian year, but it has already been quite the successful mission.

The Mars Science Laboratory has now spent one year roving the red planet.  (Image credit: NASA)

The Mars Science Laboratory has now spent one year roving the red planet.  (Image credit: NASA)

Its highly accurate instruments have allowed scientists to make more specific our notions of the planet's history.  Mars now seems like it could have been a warm, wet place in the past - one capable of sustaining at least the most basic forms of life.   Its trek towards a nearby mountain continues.  When it finally arrives, exposed layers of rock should allow Curiosity to delve even deeper into the history of Mars.

Curiosity may be one year old, but she has a long way to go to catch her older sister - the Opportunity rover, launched in 2003, has spent more than ten times as long studying the Martian surface.