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Mars Curiosity rover sings 'Happy Birthday' to itself

Anyone listening on Mars would have heard the Curiosity rover singing to celebrate its one-year anniversary since touching down.

Mars Curiosity rover
The rover's self-portrait is a fitting image for its birthday celebration.

One Earth year ago, the Curiosity rover completed a dramatic descent and landed safely on the surface of Mars. Cheers went up from space watchers around the world. On the back of a successful year of scientific exploration, it's time to celebrate once again.

NASA thinks of August 5, touch-down day, as the rover's birthday. Since nobody is willing to deliver a cake to Mars, the rover team had to settle for the traditional singing of "Happy Birthday." This was accomplished using Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. It "sang" the song by vibrating at different frequencies.

The song was tested in an identical SAM unit here on Earth before the instructions were sent to Curiosity. Since the song was played on Mars, it should be challenging for licensing agency ASCAP to shake down the rover for royalties.

"This is a first for NASA and for the world and music brings us all together, so this is fun," said Florence Tan, the SAM electrical lead engineer. Since one Mars year takes about 687 Earth days, perhaps Curiosity can look forward to another birthday party before its next Earth-years anniversary comes around.