The Curious Life of a Mars Rover

YouTube / National Geographic
YouTube / National Geographic / YouTube / National Geographic

As you read this, there are multiple robots hanging out on Mars, sending back data. If you're a space geek like me, you may have watched the rover Curiosity land in 2012. But I didn't see the Spirit and Opportunity landings in 2003, and I frankly never spent the time to read up on all the tiny details of the launch and landing processes for all of these rovers.

In this 25-minute video, NASA engineer Kobie Boykins gives us more than 10 years of Mars rover history, packed into a super-entertaining presentation. In the first eight minutes or so, Boykins runs through the launch, landing, and early stages of the Spirit and Opportunity missions, then he dives into some of the most interesting things they discovered, and how it was done. It's really fun to see someone who worked on these projects explain what's interesting about them. (He designed parts of all these rovers.) Take 25 minutes and geek out on this:

Some things to watch for in the launch/land sequences—note which parts of the system fall back to Earth and are reused, which fall into the ocean on Earth, and which bits end up as debris on Mars. I was also surprised to learn all the technical details about Curiosity around the 15-minute mark (including 6-wheel drive, 4-wheel steering). Also, the note (around 19 minutes in) that Mars has clouds. Awesome. Finally, 24 minutes in, a special version of the pale blue dot.