Curiosity is no stranger to "firsts." The one-ton rover is the first to laser-blast a Mars rock; it was also the first to carry out X-ray diffraction analysis on a bit of Mars dirt. The rover also became a popular culture trendsetter by transmitting a song from another planet to Earth.
Now, those Curiosity scientists have humanized their robot yet again with another "first" - they've commanded one of Curiosity's instruments to hum out the tune of "Happy Birthday" to commemorate the rover's first year on the Martian surface.
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Using the Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument, the most sophisticated chemistry lab ever to be sent to Mars, scientists have programmed it to resonate at varying frequencies that correspond to the notes of the famous birthday song. Usually, this resonance helps finely-ground samples of Mars dirt to filter through SAM for analysis - today, it had a whole different use.
"To commemorate SAM's birthday and Curiosity's birthday on Mars, we decided to play a little song," said Florance Tan, SAM electrical lead engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center.