One year ago today, NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars and began studying the planet. The rover may be lonely out there on its first birthday, but it won't go entirely without celebration: NASA has repurposed Curiosity's soil analysis system to play the tune of "Happy Birthday to You" out loud for all of Mars to hear.
Though the analysis system doesn't include a loudspeaker, it does include a motor that can loudly vibrate at very specific frequencies. Normally, the motor is used to help move soil through the analysis system, but it's been modified for the day to produce the exact frequencies that make up "Happy Birthday." Such a performance of the ubiquitous jingle would usually require a license from Warner Music, but the recording group is likely to have trouble collecting any royalties on Mars.
While NASA may be pausing for a bit of fun, the agency notes that Curiosity has stayed busy. In just one year, the rover has already sent back over 36,700 images at their full resolutions, driven about a mile, and analyzed material from two rocks. It's also already completed its primary objective by determining that Mars was once conducive to life. NASA appears to be pleased with the results so far — now John Grotzinger, project scientist for the rover, is eager to see what comes next: "It has been gratifying to succeed, but that has also whetted our appetites to learn more."