The Mars Rover Curiosity is celebrating a year on Mars this week. And in honor of the event, NASA team members as the Goddard Space Flight Center used the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument to sing “Happy Birthday” to the rover yesterday.
The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, isn’t a musical instrument. It doesn’t have keys or strings. It’s part of the lab in the rover’s belly that analyzes rock samples and helped discover a habitable environment on Mars — a place where microbes could have hypothetically lived in the past.
But SAM does make noise. In order to shake powdery rock samples so that they settle down, the instrument vibrates at various frequencies, Florence Tan, SAM’s lead electrical engineer, said in a video.
These frequencies can be used as musical notes. And by making SAM shake faster and slower, the team was able to tap out a little birthday tune for the rover on Monday. (They went with Aug. 5 because Curiosity landed around 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on that date.)
“If there’s anyone listening on Mars, on this special occasion, you will hear this,” Tan said.