Two years and five days ago, NASA’s rover Curiosity landed with a dusty thunk in a crater on Mars. One of the first things the six-wheeled, nuclear-powered rover did — after its 8-month journey and daring descent to the red planet’s surface — was send a sort-of selfie back home.
Then it got to work, exploring the insides of Gale Crater and sniffing around for signs that Mars was once capable of hosting life. It found them. Among Curiosity’s early discoveries is the fact that it landed in a stream bed — as narrator Felicia Day says in the newly released video above, “Billions of years ago, you could have splashed through a creek as it flowed to the bottom of Gale Crater.”
In that video, Day and her co-narrator, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey) describe how the rover’s adventures on Mars are a continuation of the days in which explorers bravely set out to find new frontiers on Earth. It’s a slick new celebration of the spirit that compels us to reach ever farther from our home planet, couched in the context of a solitary planetary rover.
Now, as Curiosity prepares to climb the 18,000-foot mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, a new adventure awaits — one that will take us billions of years back in time. As it climbs, Curiosity will read the stories recorded in the layers of Mount Sharp, tales that tell us about Mars’ early years and its maturation into the parched planet we see today. How will those stories unfold? And will Curiosity find more signs that Mars was once a life-friendly world? We’ll find out soon enough.