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Human voice makes giant leap in space thanks to Curiosity

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Tue August 28, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A recording of the head of NASA's voice is sent to Curiosity on Mars
  • The rover then transmits the message back to Earth
  • It's the first time a recorded human voice has made such a journey, NASA says
  • NASA also releases new images of a mountain Curiosity is intended to explore

(CNN) -- The voice of NASA's chief has boldly gone where no voice has gone before -- to another planet and back.

Words uttered by Charles Bolden, the administrator of NASA, were radioed to the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars, which in turn sent them back to NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth, NASA said in a statement Monday.

The successful transmission means Bolden's space-faring comments are the first instance of a recorded human voice traveling from Earth to another planet and back again, according to NASA.

In the recording, Bolden congratulated NASA employees and other agencies involved in the Curiosity mission, noting that "landing a rover on Mars is not easy."

Curiosity 'interrogates' Martian rock with laser

"Others have tried," he said. "Only America has succeeded."

The Mars rover Curiosity does a test drill on a rock dubbed "Bonanza King" to see if it would be a good place to dig deeper and take a sample. But after the rock shifted, the test was stopped. The NASA rover has now spent two years on the red planet. Curiosity set off from Earth in November 2011 and landed nearly nine months later -- 99 million miles away. Click through to see more of its images. The Mars rover Curiosity does a test drill on a rock dubbed "Bonanza King" to see if it would be a good place to dig deeper and take a sample. But after the rock shifted, the test was stopped. The NASA rover has now spent two years on the red planet. Curiosity set off from Earth in November 2011 and landed nearly nine months later -- 99 million miles away. Click through to see more of its images.
Mars rover Curiosity
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Photos: Mars rover Curiosity Photos: Mars rover Curiosity

The announcement by NASA of the voice transmission, the latest in a series of advances by Curiosity since it landed on Mars earlier this month, comes just days after the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

"We hope these words will be an inspiration to someone alive today who will become the first to stand upon the surface of Mars," Dave Lavery, NASA Curiosity program executive, said in the agency's statement. "And like the great Neil Armstrong, they will speak aloud of that next giant leap in human exploration."

Space legend Neil Armstrong dies

As well as the voice recording, NASA on Monday released new photos of the Martian landscape taken by Curiosity. The images show the knobbly terrain on the side of Mount Sharp, an area that Curiosity is eventually intended to explore.

Mount Sharp was formed from hundreds of rock layers that built up over time. The mountain is about 3 miles high, but the rover will trek up a small portion of it, testing different layers for signs that life could have once existed on Mars. It may take about a year for the rover to reach this target.

Curiosity already is sending back more data from the surface of Mars than the combined results of all of NASA's previous rovers, the space agency said Monday.

Last week, it completed its first drive on Mars, setting the stage for it to venture farther afield.

Despite the complexity of landing a 2,000-pound vehicle on another planet, Curiosity had a perfect landing on August 6, and most of the instruments scientists have tested appear to function.

There's only been one glitch so far: a wind sensor on the rover's weather station was damaged and the reason might always remain mysterious, scientists say.

Catch up on all of the Mars coverage

CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

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