NASA's Curiosity rover, the 1-ton mobile laboratory that's been tooling around Mars since August 2012, has sent tens of thousands of images of the remote planet back to Earth. Now, thanks to one YouTube user, you can see nine months' worth of those photos in just over a minute.
In what he claims is his first attempt at the time-lapse process, Karl Sanford has compiled raw images from Curiosity's mission, creating a stunning visual chronicle of the rover's movements on Mars. He even posted the code he used to create the video on GitHub.
To assemble the time lapse, Sanford used images taken by Curiosity's Front Hazard Avoidance Cameras, or Front Hazcams, which were snapped from Sol 0 to Sol 281. (Sol is the term used to refer to a Martian day.) The resulting video covers some nine Earth-months of the rover's data-gathering mission on Mars.
As each sol begins, NASA scientists play a different "rover wake-up song" to usher in a new day. On Sol 5, for instance, engineers blasted Wagner's portentous "Ride of the Valkyries" while on Sol 27, "Stronger" by Kanye West was deemed a more appropriate melody. To get the full Mars experience, we suggest you queue up one of the tunes while you watch the rover at work in the video, above. The full playlist, categorized by sol, is visible here.
Curiosity, an avid Twitter user, even tweeted Sanford's video to its 1.3 million followers:
Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) May 24, 2013
If you're wondering what, exactly, Curiosity is doing on Mars, Avi Okon, lead hardware engineer for the rover's drill, explains the mechanics of gathering samples on the planet's surface in this video.
The rover itself is the result of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif.
Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Nov. 26, 2011, Curiosity successfully landed in the Red Planet's Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012 UTC. The rover's radioisotope thermoelectric power-generator, supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy, produces electricity for its journey on the planet's surface. Drawing from that long-lasting energy source, Curiosity is expected to be operational for at least a full Mars year, or 687 Earth days.
The rover has already achieved its chief goal, which was to find out whether Mars could have once sustained microbial life. As determined by the mix of compounds in a recent sample, it could have.
Despite technically completing its mission, Curiosity will stay on the planet gathering data, and continuing to examine our distant neighbor. As Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program told Space.com, "Mars has written its autobiography in the rocks of Gale Crater, and we've just started deciphering that story."
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems