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Mars? No, Burning Man: Curosity Rover art car will prowl the playa

A team from NASA's JPL, working on its own, has built an art car based on Curiosity Rover, which touched down on Mars just over a year ago.

A team including a number of NASA JPL employees, working on their own, has built an art car for Burning Man that is based on the famous Curiosity Rover that touched down on Mars just over a year ago. Screenshot by CNET

If you happen to be wandering around a certain martian-like landscape next week and see the Curiosity Rover drive by, don't worry about your air supply.

Though you might be in a mindset to think you're on Mars, you're really at Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts festival held each summer in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. But your eyes aren't deceiving you: That is the Curiosity Rover. Well, at least an art car built by a group including members of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory meant to pay homage to the rover that landed on Mars a year ago, and which has since then been prowling the Red Planet, beaming back all kinds of amazing photography.

The team, known as the Desert Wizards of Mars, is led by Charles White, who works at JPL, though on the art car's Web site he cautions that the project is being done outside of NASA's auspices.

"As a private citizen on my own time and funding," White wrote on his site (PDF), "I want to express thanks to my co-workers, and my institution, for our successful landing of Curiosity on Mars [on] 5th August, 2012. I can do this through my art in putting together a team of people that feel the same as I do, building the Mars Rover Art Car for [Burning Man] 2013."

On the site, White wrote that the goal of the project was to "create an artistic representation of the Curiosity Rover" in tribute to the team that successfully landed the real Curiosity Rover on Mars.

Of course, hundreds of people build art cars for Burning Man every year, often paying homage to things in real-life, like buildings, boats, animals, and more. But White, as an actual JPL employee, brings a bit of veritas to his project that should fill anyone going to Burning Man this year with excitement at seeing exactly what the Desert Wizards of Mars will pull off.

After all, as the site promises, the art car will feature a Web monitored weather station, a GPS tracking station, a Web-controllable camera system, and more. And, reports Justin Wardell, one of the "Rovernauts" behind the project, "We will also be assisting in providing the video content live streaming from Burning Man with our several on-board cameras and transmitter. Tune in for our video feed later in the week."

Update, Thursday, 9:40 a.m. PT: Now updated with link for live stream that the Curiosity Rover art car will be providing from Burning Man starting Monday.