Mars Rover celebrates fourth birthday on Mars with new game

5 Aug 2016

Would you like to play a game?

One of NASA’s more durable missions, the Curiosity Rover today celebrates its four-year anniversary on Mars.

Four (Earth) years of scurrying around, digging up samples and tweeting selfies have flown by for the Curiosity Rover, with its anniversary on the Red Planet coming not long after a two-year extension to its already-successful mission.

Mars Curiosity Rover

Busy targeting its 17th rock sample since landing on Mars back in 2012, Curiosity has positioned itself at a place called Marimba, where it will investigate some of the youngest rocks on Mars.

Ascending up the slopes of Mount Sharp, the multi-month mission will take in rock types not previously investigated.

However, it is back here on Earth that NASA’s current gaze is set, with a fairly trivial computer game (Android, iOS) released to drum up interest in the rover’s mission.

Navigating the rover across uneven ground, and utilising a radar to search for underground water – this tool will be launched in 2020 – players gain points the longer they keep the rover alive.

A selfie of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover right where it drilled for ‘Buckskin’, via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A selfie of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover right where it drilled for ‘Buckskin’, via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We’re excited about a new way for people on the go to engage with Curiosity’s current adventures on Mars and future exploration by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover too,” said Michelle Viotti, manager of Mars public engagement initiatives.

“Using social networks, the user can share the fun with friends. The interest that is shared through gameplay also helps us open a door to deeper literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Though the game is highlighting what is to come in 2020, Curiosity’s own improvements since landing on Mars have been telling. Despite some planned-for wear and tear, the rover is working fine.

Where previous testing of rock samples took over a month, it now takes just one week, and the scientists working on Curiosity are gaining valuable insights ahead of sending humans up to Mars.

Last month, Curiosity gave NASA scientists a scare by going into self-imposed safety mode. It recovered soon after.

Main Mars rover image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic