The Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture the set of thumbnail images stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait in this October 31, 2012 image. (REUTERS/NASA//JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
On the rocky surface of neighboring Mars, the car-sized Mars rover, aptly named Curiosity (a name given by a 15-year-old through a contest), made a picture-perfect landing in a crater on Aug. 6. In control of the project was Bobak Ferdowsi, whose not-so-nerdy looks, smart smile and mohawk hairdo helped him become the new face of NASA. The University of Washington and MIT graduate sparked interest on Yahoo! Search and social media sites and received a galaxy of marriage proposals. "I sort of thought this week was just going to be dealing with the emotions of landing," Ferdowsi told Wired during the first week Curiosity was on the Martian surface. "But to find out late Sunday, early Monday morning, that all of the sudden people were really interested in me, that was totally surreal."
Curiosity, though, was irresistible. The rover beamed spectacular images from about 60 million miles away, delighting astronomy fans who have relied upon the Hubble Space Telescope to deliver images of an elusive universe. It inched its way along the sandy surface, checking out rocks and soil and once in a while leaving its laser mark on the planet.