13 May 2012

Forty-nine dismembered bodies are discovered by Mexican authorities on Mexican Federal Highway 40.

Cadereyta Jiménez massacre
Part of Mexican Drug War
Cadereyta-massacre.png
Expreso front page on 14 May 2012
LocationCadereyta Jiménez, Nuevo León, Mexico
Date12–13 May 2012
Attack type
Mass murder
Deaths49
VictimUnsure[N 1]
PerpetratorsLos Zetas

The Cadereyta Jiménez massacre occurred on the Fed 40 on 12–13 May 2012.[1] Mexican officials stated that 49 people were decapitated and mutilated by members of Los Zetas drug cartel and dumped by a roadside near the city of Monterrey in northern Mexico.[2][3] The Blog del Narco, a blog that documents events and people of the Mexican Drug War anonymously, reported that the actual (unofficial) death toll may be more than 68 people.[4] The bodies were found in the town of San Juan in the municipality of Cadereyta Jiménez, Nuevo León at about 4 a.m. on a non-toll highway leading to Reynosa, Tamaulipas.[5][6] The forty-three men and six women killed had their heads, feet, and hands cut off, making their identification difficult.[2] Those killed also bore signs of torture and were stuffed in plastic bags.[7] The arrested suspects have indicated that the victims were Gulf Cartel members,[8] but the Mexican authorities have not ruled out the possibility that they were U.S.-bound migrants.[9] Four days before this incident, 18 people were found decapitated and dismembered near Mexico's second largest city, Guadalajara.[10]

The metropolitan area of Monterrey is an important warehousing center for cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs bound for U.S. consumers.[11] The natural gas wells and pipelines running through Cadereyta and the U.S-Mexico border have also been the most tapped by thieves, supplying gasoline and other natural resources to Mexico's criminal underworld. Small towns, ranches, and isolated communities in Nuevo León have long been treasured by drug traffickers.[11] The Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been fighting for the territorial control of the smuggling routes to the United States, and this massacre may be the "latest blow in an escalating war of intimidation among drug gangs."[12] The cartels also fight for the control of local drug markets and extortion rackets, including shakedowns of migrants seeking to reach the United States.[13] In addition, the discovery seems to echo several other mass murder events where the drug cartels have left large numbers of bodies in public places as warnings to their rivals.[14] The authorities have blamed much of the violence on Los Zetas – a cartel originally set up by ex-commandos that deserted the Mexican Army in the 1990s – and the Sinaloa Cartel, an organization originally headed by Joaquín Guzmán Loera (a.k.a. El Chapo), once Mexico's most-wanted drug lord.[15][16]

Background

Gang rivalry

Since 2011, Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel have emerged as the two main criminal syndicates in Mexico's drug war, with smaller gangs lining up on either side in a competition that now resembles a "full-scale war."[17] A string of mass slayings have convulsed Mexico in 2011 and 2012. Many of them took place in northern states, where Los Zetas have waged a war against rival drug trafficking organizations for the control of the smuggling routes into the United States.[18] The Los Zetas gang dates back to 1999, when deserters of the Mexican Army Special Forces joined the ranks of the Gulf Cartel. Nonetheless, the two organizations split in early 2010, and have fought for the control of the trafficking routes since then. The powerful Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas' mortal rivals, has stood up and fought Los Zetas too.[18] Since late April 2012, Los Zetas has been under immense pressure by the alliance between the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel.[19] In March 2012, thirteen Los Zetas' members were killed and dismembered by the Sinaloa Cartel in a turf war; Los Zetas responded in kind, killing at least 10 members of the Sinaloa cartel in their rival's turf.[19]

municipality of Cadereyta Jiménez is located in the central part of the state of Nuevo León, on the east of Mexico
Cadereyta Jiménez
Cadereyta Jiménez
Mexico City
Mexico City
Location of Cadereyta Jiménez

Much of the violence between Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel is the result of fighting over cocaine supplies from South America.[20] On the supply side, the increased pressures on Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, whose operations in Colombia in 2012 prompted his organization to grab larger shares of cocaine from Peru and Ecuador, threatened the supply-lines of Los Zetas, and triggered tit-for-tat attacks among both cartels.[20] The Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas are "regional and cultural opposites," because the Sinaloa organization has been moving drugs north from the ranch country parts in Mexico into the U.S. for generations, while Los Zetas are newer arrivals from the more urban eastern coast.[21] In addition, Los Zetas is a transient cartel without real territory or a secure stream of income, while the Sinaloa Cartel has a lucrative cocaine trade and the control of smuggling routes and territories. But the former are heavily armed, while the latter's enforcement arm is weaker.[22] The Sinaloa cartel uses tit-for-tat attacks as a way of bringing down the newcomers; for Los Zetas, it is about maintaining their violent reputation – the organization's most valued asset.[21] Moreover, Los Zetas pose a bigger insurgency threat to the Mexican government than the older cartels in the country because of the brutality of their attacks against the security forces, their disregard for civilians' lives, and their dangerous habits that go beyond the "unspoken codes of older traffickers." The violent reputation of Los Zetas has made northeastern Mexico a no-go zone for many.[23] Los Zetas, unlike the other traditional drug cartels, act like urban guerrillas; a police chief in Mexico explained how the Zetas would make anonymous phone calls to get the police out in the streets, block the road where the police were, and then open fire from all sides.[23] In addition, the goal of Los Zetas differs greatly from other drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. Other cartels focus primarily in drug producing and drug trafficking, while Los Zetas often move into urban areas to diversify their criminal agenda and carry out a number of crimes.[23] Their presence represents a new model for organize crime, unseating many older cartels with their brutal violent tactics that destabilize Mexico.[23]

The drug violence in the state of Nuevo León and all across Mexico has left more than 50,000 people dead since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006.[24] His military-led approach shortly after taking office spiraled the violence in the country, and has eroded the support of Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN), which did not regain the presidential seat in the 2012 presidential elections.[24] The city of Monterrey was long been a bastion of the PAN, and the local business community has been "livid" about the violence in their city. Surveys showed that voters thought that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico uninterruptedly from 1929 to 2000, is likely to control and put down the violence. Its 71-year rule was "tainted by corruption," and critics have accused the PRI of making deals with the cartels to maintain peace in the country.[24]

Modus operandi

In the 1990s, the drug cartels in Mexico did not cut off the heads of the victims.[25] Instead, they used different "codes of murder" established between the mafias. A bullet through the back of the head, for example, signified that the victim was a traitor; a bullet through the temple, however, signified that the victim was member of a rival drug gang.[25] Now, decapitation is a tactic often used by the criminal organizations in Mexico—primarily by Los Zetas and its two main rivals, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels. The first public decapitation was carried out by La Familia Michoacana in September 2006, when several gunmen opened the doors of a bar in the Mexican state of Michoacán and threw five severed heads on the dance floor.[25] The practices of beheading victims in Mexico is believed to have come from Guatemala in the year 2000, when Los Zetas extended their criminal network into Central America and eventually incorporated with the elite jungle military squad known as the Kaibiles.[26] The Kaibiles had been trained to intimidate the local population with beheadings during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996).[26] Others see the link with the religious cult of the Santa Muerte ("Holy Death").[26] Wherever it stems from, decapitations is "now a staple in the lexicon of violence" in the Mexican Drug War.[26]

Intended to terrorize the civil population and intimidate rival cartels, the public display of butchered bodies has replaced the traditional Mexican drug cartel practice of burying people in clandestine mass graves, as in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas.[27] These new cartel tactics were used for the first time by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, an armed wing of Guzmán Loera's cartel, in September 2011 when they dumped over 30 bodies on a busy avenue in the state of Veracruz.[27] Los Zetas, however, responded with their own butchery by leaving 26 corpses in the state of Jalisco and over a dozen in Sinaloa. These kinds of tactics are media measures taken by organized crime to solicit the attention of the public and their rival groups.[27] In earlier instances, some of the victims turned out to be students, bakers, and brick layers—none of them with criminal records. In effect, anyone who can be abducted from the streets is fair game for use in these mass slayings designed to "cause terror."[17] Moreover, the new tactic of leaving huge body dumps may be used by the cartels to draw law enforcement into a territory to disrupt the activities of a cartel's rival in its home or disputed territory.[17]

The two-year rivalry between Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel has killed thousands of people since early 2010, and has grown increasingly bloody in recent months after the participation of gunmen loyal to Joaquín Guzmán Loera of the Sinaloa cartel. Guzmán, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, has allied with the Gulf cartel to fight off Los Zetas and take control of their territories.[11] The organized crime groups often leave multiple bodies in public places as warnings to their rivals; these criminal groups have been fighting for the control of the drug corridors to the United States, the local drug markets in cities, extortion rackets, and human smuggling.[28] Violence has erupted in several parts of Mexico between Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, who fight to take over each other's territories.[29][30]

Cartels' retaliation attacks

On 20 September 2011, violence erupted between Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel in Veracruz, a strategic smuggling state with a giant gulf port.[31] Two trucks containing 35 dead bodies were found at an underpass near a shopping mall in Boca del Río,[32] having reportedly been abandoned there by armed men in the middle of the highway.[33][34][35] All of the victims were alleged to be members of Los Zetas,[36] but it was later proven that only six of them had been involved in minor crime incidents, and none of them were involved with organized crime.[37] The Blog del Narco reported on 21 September 2011 that the message left behind was supposedly signed by Gente Nueva, an enforcer group of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the top boss of the Sinaloa cartel;[38] However, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel also claimed responsibility, and announced they were planning to take over Veracruz.[39] On 6 October 2011, again in Boca del Río, 32 bodies were found by the Mexican authorities in three different houses.[40][41][41] Four further bodies were confirmed separately by the state government of Veracruz.[42] The discoveries led to the resignation of Reynaldo Escobar Pérez, the State Justice Attorney General.[43] One day after the resignation, 10 more bodies were found throughout the city of Veracruz.[44] The Jalisco New Generation Cartel was also responsible for 67 killings in Veracruz on 7 October 2011.[45]

Los Zetas retaliated against their enemies in the state of Sinaloa on 23 November 2011 and left 26 bodies in several abandoned vehicles in Sinaloa.[46][47] In the early hours of the morning in Culiacán, Sinaloa, they had set a vehicle ablaze.[48] A dozen charred and handcuffed bodies were in the vehicle.[48] At 07:00 hours, another burning vehicle was discovered in the northern city limits of Culiacán, inside which were four bodies handcuffed and clad in bulletproof vests.[48] During the night, 10 more bodies were found throughout several different municipalities.[48] As a response to the Sinaloa cartel incursions in Veracruz, Los Zetas carried out reprisal killings in the Guadalajara.[49][50] On 24 November 2011, three trucks containing 26 bodies were found in an avenue at Guadalajara.[51] At around 7:00 pm, Guadalajara police received numerous reports of vehicles abandoned in a major avenue with more than 10 bodies.[52] Reports identified twenty-six victims as alleged Sinaloa Cartel members, and mentioned that Los Zetas and the Milenio Cartel were responsible for their massacre.[53]

Dismembered remains of 14 men were found in several plastic bags inside two vehicles in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on 17 April 2012.[54] CNNMéxico stated that the message left behind by the criminal group said that they were going to "clean up Nuevo Laredo" by killing Zeta members.[55] The Monitor newspaper, however, cited a source with direct knowledge of the attacks stating the 14 bodies belonged to members of Los Zetas who had been killed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, now a branch of the Sinaloa Cartel.[56] Following the attacks, Joaquín Guzmán Loera – better known as El Chapo Guzmán – sent a message to Los Zetas that they would fight for the control of the Nuevo Laredo plaza.[57] At around 1:00 am on 4 May 2012, nine people were hanged from a bridge on the Fed 85D in Nuevo Laredo.[58] A banner left behind reportedly stated that those killed were the perpetrators of the car bomb in the city on 24 April 2012.[59] The nine were reportedly members of the Gulf Cartel who were killed by Los Zetas.[60] Several hours later, 14 decapitated bodies were abandoned inside a vehicle in front of the Customs Agency;[61] the severed heads were left inside several ice coolers in front of the municipal palace.[61] The Mexican police said the second massacre could have been an act of revenge by the Gulf Cartel against Los Zetas for the earlier killings.[62][63] The decapitated bodies were found with a message allegedly signed by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, demanding recognition presence of the Sinaloa cartel in the area.[64]

In the morning on 9 May 2012,[65] Los Zetas left the chopped-up remains of 18 bodies inside two vehicles in Chapala, Jalisco, just south of Guadalajara.[66][67][68] Eighteen heads were found along the dismembered bodies; some had been frozen, others were covered in lime, and the rest were found in an advanced state of decomposition.[69] The Mexican authorities confirmed that a message was left behind by the killers, presumably from Los Zetas and the Milenio Cartel.[68]

Investigations

El Bravo newspaper from Matamoros reporting the killings

In 2012, the state of Nuevo León and its surrounding territories have become a battleground for a brutal conflict between Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, two drug trafficking organizations from northeastern Mexico.[70] Reports of forced disappearances have not been uncommon in the past years. The municipality of Cadereyta Jiménez — a middle-class, industrial community where the bodies were found — is known for its broom factory, an oil refinery, and its historical role as one of the first places where baseball was played in Mexico.[70] Nonetheless, it had at least five municipal employees slain in April 2012; just a week before the massacre, a military general stepped up and took over the city's depleted police force.[70] In fact, the municipality of Cadereyta Jiménez is under dispute by Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel;[71] the area is a strategic point for human smuggling, drug trafficking, and oil theft.[71] The municipality of Cadereyta is the most violent municipality in the state of Nuevo León that does not form part of the Monterrey metropolitan area.[72]

Initially, the Mexican authorities reported the discovery of 37 bodies early in the morning on 13 May 2012 in the town of San Juan, 75 miles (125 km) southwest of the border city of Roma, Texas.[73] However, upon more detailed examination at the scene, the official figures reached 49 dead.[74] The bodies were discovered on the Mexican Federal Highway 40 at about 4 am, forcing the Mexican police and the federal troops to close the highway.[73] The victims were all headless and dismembered;[75][76][77] none of the victims were shot dead.[78] According to the testimonies of several civilians from San Juan, late at night before the bodies were discovered, a foul-odor could be perceived from a distance, but none of them imagined that the stink actually came from dismembered bodies.[79] When the forensic experts began to pick up the bodies, they had to use facemasks because the intensity of the odor was intolerable.[79] The Mexican authorities in the area had to cover their mouths and noses for the same reason.[80]

The attorney's office declared that the victims were dismembered to prevent them from being identified.[81] Nonetheless, the victims are believed to be more than 25 years of age,[82] and many of them had tattoos of the Santa Muerte ("Holy Death") – a female skeletal grim reaper – which could facilitate their identification.[77] The bodies were taken to the hospital in the University of Monterrey for DNA testing and further investigation;[9][83] dozens of military men were ordered to guard the surrounding area.[83] Nuevo León's security spokesman said that the 49 people were killed up to 48 hours earlier at a different location, most likely in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas,[84] and then transported by truck to where they were found.[85] In addition, he said at a news conference that a banner left at the site bore a message with Los Zetas claiming responsibility for the killing.[86] A large black "Z 100%" was spray-painted on a road sign close to where the bodies were found.[87] The Mexican police have taken this spray-painted message as a reference to Los Zetas, which often leaves messages signed "Z" at crime scenes to intimidate both authorities and rivals.[88]

The authorities noted that there had been no forced disappearances in the area in the previous days,[89] and so did not discount the possibility that those killed were US-bound migrants.[86] Univision suggested that, due to the large numbers of people in this massacre, those killed may have been illegal migrants who were abducted from a bus in which they were traveling and then killed by Los Zetas for failing to pay the 'cuota'.[85] The authorities have also not discarded the possibility that the massacre was the result of an "internal adjustment" between the Mexican criminal organizations.[90] Javier Del Real, the secretary of Public Safety in the state, mentioned that the purpose of the massacre was to bring people's attention, "and it did."[90]

El Salvador asked Mexico for the DNA results of the victims in Cadereyta to make sure if those killed were migrants from their country,[91] but as of July 2012, none of the bodies have been identified.[92]

Aftermath

Soon after the massacre, more than 50 police officers guarded the municipality of Cadereyta.[93] And for more than seven hours, the stretch of Mexican Federal Highway 40 where the massacre occurred was blocked by federal agents and state police officers.[94]

The Attorney General of Mexico (PGR) attributed the escalating violence in the country to the criminal organizations headed by Joaquín Guzmán Loera (a.k.a. El Chapo) and Ismael Zambada García (a.k.a. El Mayo), who head the Sinaloa cartel; and to Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano (a.k.a. El Lazca) and Miguel Treviño Morales (a.k.a. Z-40), who used to head Los Zetas drug cartel.[95] According to the Mexican government, the two cartels have committed "irrational acts of inhumane and inadmissible violence in their dispute" and have created "the most definitive of all the cartel wars" in Mexico.[96] The Mexican government offers up to 30 million pesos ($2 million U.S. dollars) for information that leads to the capture of these mafia bosses.[96][97]

The Mexican federal government issued a statement on 13 May 2012 condemning the attacks.[98] The Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob) offered its support to aid the authorities of the state of Nuevo León to find those responsible. The municipal authorities of the state were also asked to maintain coordination and work in unison with the Federal government.[98] The Mexican authorities then asked the population to stay calm, since the massacre took place in a remote area and in the darkness of the early morning.[99] In addition, SEGOB emphasised that as for the Monterrey casino attack and the San Fernando massacre, justice would be served.[100]

YouTube video

A Blog del Narco article on 15 May 2012 pointed to a video recording uploaded on YouTube showing several members of Los Zetas disposing of the butchered bodies on the highway in Cadereyta.[101] The video, recorded by an anonymous man who at the same time gave instructions to his henchmen, lasts for about 7 minutes.[101] It shows how the bodies were transported by a dump truck to the area where they were found; once the truck stopped, several young men dumped the bodies on the highway one by one.[101] Over the dark scene in the videotape, a voice was heard on the background yelling: "How many are left? How many are left?"[102] Alongside the bodies, they placed a banner:

"This is going to happen to all the Gulf and Sinaloa cartel members; the Mexican marines; Federal police; and government forces. No one can stop us. Sincerely, The Crazy, Miguel Treviño Morales (Z-40), and Commander Heriberto Lazcano."[101]

— Los Zetas

'Narco-banners' from Los Zetas

On 15 May 2012 Los Zetas allegedly put up five narco-banners from bridges or in other public places of San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas[103] denying responsibility for the Cadereyta Jiménez massacre.[104] Other banners were also put up in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo.[105][106] In the written banners, Los Zetas disassociated themselves from the slaughter in Nuevo León, and asked the Mexican federal government to conduct an investigation before blaming them.[107] The banners suggested that the massacre was perpetrated by the Gulf Cartel, saying that Los Zetas would have dumped the bodies inside the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas (within the territory of the Gulf cartel), instead of in Cadereyta Jiménez, Nuevo León, its own territory;[108] Los Zetas, however, assumed responsibility for the 18 killed in Jalisco and the 9 hanged in Nuevo Laredo.[109] The banners were immediately removed by the Mexican authorities.[110] The authorities stated that they have not formally accused Los Zetas for carrying out the massacre, and that they only stated the content of the banners found alongside the bodies.[111]

It was later proven that Los Zetas put up the banners to confuse the authorities of their involvement in the massacre.[112]

Arrests

The Mexican military detained eight Gulf Cartel members in the small, northeastern town of China, Nuevo León on 17 May 2012.[113] Officials of the Secretariat of National Defense stated that the cartel members were captured during a military operation in the area in which cocaine was allegedly seized.[114] The detainees were initially believed to have been involved in the dumping of 49 mutilated corpses in Cadereyta.[115] The massacre was viewed as an attempt by the Gulf Cartel to stoke law enforcement crackdown in Los Zetas territory – a tactic known as "heating up the plaza."[116] Nonetheless, the Mexican authorities later confirmed that the actual perpetrator of the massacre was Los Zetas, and not the Gulf cartel.[117]

Elizondo Ramírez (El Loco), the perpetrator of the massacre

After the discovery of the 49 corpses, the Mexican military implemented "Operation Rastrillo" to coordinate the regional commanders in the states bordering Nuevo León to seal and prevent the movement of offenders into other areas of the region.[118] In Guadalupe, Nuevo León on 18 May 2012, the operation led to the capture of Jesús Daniel Elizondo Ramírez, nicknamed El Loco (English: "The Crazy One"), a member of the Los Zetas.[119][120][121] El Loco was the leader of an important cell within the Los Zetas that was responsible for the massacre.[119] According to the authorities, El Loco joined group of hitmen in 2008 that was looking to expand the presence of Los Zetas in Guatemala; during his time in Guatemala, he engaged in many armed confrontations with local drug traffickers, including one that killed Juan José León Ardón alias El Juancho, one of the country's most-wanted drug lords.[122] He is also responsible for several kidnappings and assassinations in Cadereyta, along with the murder of the Secretary of Social Development of the state.[123] The Mexican authorities confirmed on 21 May 2012 that Daniel Elizondo El Loco was given orders by Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Treviño Morales to carry out the massacre in Cadereyta to "cause confusion" among the population and the authorities.[122] Elizondo, however, disobeyed the orders of his leaders and dumped the bodies in the Mexican Federal Highway 40 instead of dumping them in Cadereyta's main public square, where it was previously planned.[122] The bodies were transported from Los Herrera to Cadereyta, two municipalities between the city of Monterrey and the Rio Grande, and then dumped on the highway by Elizondo and 30 other gunmen.[124]

Upon the arrests of 17 May 2012, the Mexican military obtained information of the existence of five clandestine graves in China, Nuevo León.[125] The five individual graves, at a ranch known as 'La Gloria' just on the border with Tamaulipas and identified by members of Los Zetas, were exhumed by the authorities.[126][127][128] The authorities, however, said that the corpses found were "complete skeletons," ruling out the possibility of them being the victims of the Cadereyta massacre.[125] The bodies were calcined and in an advance state of decomposition.[128]

In the city of Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, the Mexican Navy arrested José Ricardo Barajas López on 3 August 2012, another cartel member responsible for the massacre. He is one of the 37 fugitives that escaped during the Apodaca prison riot in February 2012, where 44 Gulf Cartel inmates were killed.[129] According to the Mexican authorities, Barajas López delivered the 49 alleged Gulf Cartel members to a man known as Tula, who forward the victims to Rolando Fernando Sánchez González, a former policeman and the regional boss of Los Zetas in Santa Catarina, for execution.[130]

Two months after the arrests, the Mexican authorities have not been able to identify the victims of the massacre. Hence, the bodies will most likely be sent to local cemeteries, although many civil organizations protested against this.[92][131]

Notes

  1. ^ The suspects arrested claim that the victims were members of the Gulf Cartel, a rival drug trafficking organization. Nonetheless, the Mexican authorities have not discarded the possibility that the victims were U.S-bound migrants.

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External links

17 November 2012

At least 50 schoolchildren are killed in an accident at a railway crossing near Manfalut, Egypt.

Manfalut railway accident
Details
Date17 November 2012 (2012-11-17)
LocationManfalut
Coordinates27°19′N 30°58′E / 27.317°N 30.967°E / 27.317; 30.967
CountryEgypt
OperatorEgyptian National Railways
Incident typeLevel crossing accident
Statistics
Trains1
Deaths51
Injuries17
Accident location (Manfalut)
Accident location (Manfalut) is located in Egypt
Accident location (Manfalut)
Accident location (Manfalut)
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 27°19′N 30°58′E / 27.317°N 30.967°E / 27.317; 30.967

The Manfalut railway accident occurred on 17 November 2012 when a school bus, which was carrying about 70 school children between four and six years old, was hit by a train on a rail crossing near Manfalut, Egypt, 350 km (230 miles) south of the Egyptian capital Cairo.[1] At least 50 children and the bus driver died in the crash,[2] and about 17 people were injured.[3] Witnesses reported that barriers at the crossing were not closed when the crash occurred.[4]

After the crash, a number of people began searching along the tracks to find the remains of their children and victims they knew.[1] Additionally, schoolbags and schoolbooks were scattered across the tracks.[2] Police did not arrive until two hours after the accident, and by the time the first ambulance came, most of the children were dead.[3] Afterwards, the families of the victims protested at the crash site.[5]

The Egyptian minister of transportation, Mohammad Rashad Al Matini, and the head of the railways authority resigned after the accident.[1][4] President Mohamed Morsi pledged to hold those responsible accountable. The crossing worker, who was allegedly asleep, has been detained,[5] and Ibrahim El-Zaafrani, the secretary-general of the relief committee of the Arab Doctors Union, said that 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,600)[6] will be awarded to families of the dead and 5,000 pounds (about $800) to families of the injured.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Egypt bus crash kills 50 children near Manfalut". BBC News. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Scores of schoolchildren die in Egypt crash". Al Jazeera. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Protesters demand Assiut governor resign over fatal bus-train collision". Ahram Online. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Train slams into school bus in Egypt, killing 48 children, injuring 27 others". Haaretz. Cairo. Reuters. 18 November 2012. Archived from the original on 20 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Dozens Killed, Mostly Children, in Egypt Crash". The New York Times. 17 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  6. ^ Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (18 November 2012). "Bus, train crash in Egypt kills 51 -- mostly children". CNN. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.

11 September 2012

A total of 315 people are killed in two garment factory fires in Pakistan.

2012 Pakistan factory fires
2012 Pakistan factory fires is located in Pakistan
Baldia Town
Baldia Town
Lahore
Lahore
Location of incidents shown in the map of Pakistan.
Date11 September 2012 (2012-09-11)
Location
  1. Baldia Town, Karachi, Sindh
  2. Lahore, Punjab
CauseVarious ignition sources: (still under investigation)
Casualties
Karachi Fire: 289 people killed[1][2] by smoke inhalation, burns and stampede
Lahore Fire: 25 people killed[2] by smoke inhalation, burns and stampede

Garment factories in the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore caught fire on 11 September 2012. The fires occurred in a textile factory in the western part of Karachi and in a shoe making factory in Lahore. The fires are considered to be the most deadly and worst industrial factory fires in Pakistan's history,[3] killing 289 people and seriously injuring more than 600.[4][5][6]

Background

Pakistan has one of the largest labour and manpower resources in the world, due to its large population. According to data produced by the CIA World Factbook, the total number of Pakistan's labour force is 58.4 million, making it the 10th largest country in terms of available human workforce.[7] About 20.1% of labour force is involved in industry. The conditions under which Pakistan's blue-collar labour works have often been raised by trade unions and workers' rights organisations. There is also a controversial, yet wide use of child labour in Pakistan.[8]

The garment factory "Ali Enterprises", which is located in Plot 67, Hub Road, Baldia Town, Karachi,[9] used to export its garments to Europe and the United States, and had employed between 1,200 and 1,500 workers. Ali Enterprises manufactured denim, knitted garments, and hosiery, and had capital of between $10 million and $50 million. Workers at Ali Enterprises said they earned between 5,000 and 10,000 rupees ($52 to $104) a month for their labour.[10] The factory manufactured jeans for textile discounter KiK. KiK claimed to control enforcement of labour laws and security standards of its suppliers. However, a security check in 2007 revealed deficiencies in fire protection of the Karachi plant, which KiK claimed were fixed by 2011. According to the Pakistani Textile Workers Union (NTUF), a high working pressure and overtime with unpaid additional work were frequent at the factory.[11] A few weeks prior to the fire, the factory passed an internationally recognised safety test.[12][13] The factory is also suspected of using child labour and locked workplaces analogous to prison cells. The owner of the factory, Abdul Aziz, had reportedly prevented inspections of the factory.[14]

Karachi

2012 Pakistan factory fires is located in Karachi
2012 Pakistan factory fires
Location of garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi.

A private garment factory lit on fire and the flames ignited chemicals that were stored in the factory.[15] The Baldia Town factory inferno case took a dramatic turn on Friday 7 Feb 2015 when a report by Rangers claimed that the MQM was behind the deadly fire that claimed the lives of at least 258 factory workers.[16]

The report prepared by a joint investigation team (JIT) was submitted to the Sindh High Court by an additional attorney general, along with a statement of the deputy assistant judge advocate general of Rangers, Major Ashfaque Ahmed.[16]

The statement said the information had been disclosed by suspect Mohammad Rizwan Qureshi, an alleged worker of the MQM, on June 22, 2013 during joint investigation of the factory inferno. According to the JIT report, the MQM worker revealed that a “well-known party high official” had demanded Rs200 million as Bhatta (extortion money) though his frontman from Ali Enterprises, the owners of the ill-fated factory, in Aug 2012.[15]

Between 300 and 400 workers were inside the factory when the blaze erupted. Officials said that all the exit doors in the factory were locked and many of the windows of the factory were covered with iron bars, which made it difficult for workers to escape at the time of the fire and consequently many of the deaths were caused by suffocation.[17] Baldia Town Factory owner names MQM lawmakers, Ex governor sindh Ishrat ul Ibad and ex chief of CPLC Ahmed Chinoy.[18][19]

2012 Pakistan factory fires is located in Lahore
2012 Pakistan factory fires
Location of factory in Lahore.

Lahore

The shoemaking factory is located on Band Road in Gulshan-i-Ravi in Lahore. It caught fire when sparks from a faulty electricity generator flew into chemicals. The generator was installed in the garage of the factory compound, which was also the only entry and exit point of the factory.[20]

Investigation

Source: Sindh Law enforcement JIT Report Issued on 07 Feb 2015

The Baldia Town factory inferno case took a dramatic turn when a report by Rangers claimed that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was behind the deadly fire that claimed the lives of at least 258 factory workers.

The report prepared by a joint investigation team (JIT) was submitted to the Sindh High Court by an additional attorney general, along with a statement of the deputy assistant judge advocate general of Rangers, Major Ashfaque Ahmed.

The statement said the information had been disclosed by suspect Mohammad Rizwan Qureshi, an alleged worker of the MQM, on June 22, 2013 during joint investigation of the factory inferno.

Source: Joint Investigation Team report submitted to the Sindh High Court

According to the JIT report, the MQM worker revealed that a “well-known party high official” had demanded Rs200 million as Bhatta (extortion money) though his frontman from Ali Enterprises, the owners of the ill-fated factory, in Aug 2012.[21]

One of the factory owners in Karachi, Arshad Bhaila, claimed that the fire first broke out in the warehouse and that he called the fire brigade, which arrived about 90 minutes late. The New York Times reported that the local fire department arrived 75 minutes after the fire started.[22]

A judicial inquiry headed by Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi reported that a short circuit caused the fire. The report cited several factors that exacerbated the situation leading to the loss of life, including the late arrival of fire tenders, the lack of fire hydrants, and traffic congestion. The tribunal was highly critical of the factory owners and government, which failed to enforce the law. It also criticized the police's forensic department for failing to conduct a scientific investigation.[23]

On 14 September, Justice Hassan Azhar of Sindh High Court Larkana Bench approved Rs. 500,000 bail for factory owners Abdul Aziz, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila.[24] All the bank accounts of the owners and the company are frozen and the owners are not allowed to leave the country as they are on exit control list. The owners are facing charges of pre-meditated murder.[25][26] The Deputy General Secretary of the Pakistan National Federation of Trade Unions (PNFTU) Nasir Manoor said that the owner of the factory, Abdul Aziz, must have fled from the country despite having his name on the Exit Control List (ECL) and he would return only after the issue was off the media radar.[14] The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) denied allegations that it was involved in the approval of the building plans for the Baldia Town garment factory.[27] The C.E.O. of Ali Enterprises, Shahid Bhalia, son of the factory's owner, said that he was innocent and was ready to appear before any court and provide compensation to the victims and their families.[28]

Reaction

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed grave concern over the rising toll in the fire incident. He also consoled the bereaved families and directed the authorities concerned to ensure that the best medical assistance was provided to the affected people.had called for a report on fire incidents in Karachi and Lahore from the governors of the two provinces.[29]

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who was on an official trip to China, telephoned Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa and Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to express his grief and shock over the incident in Lahore. He also called Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad to learn about the latest situation regarding the Karachi factory fire. Ashraf also gave his heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the victims' families. He asked the governors and chief ministers to extend all out assistance and cooperation to the affected people.[29]

Sindh Minister for Industry and Commerce Rauf Siddique announced his resignation as a result of the incidence.[30] The Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced three days of mourning. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan also offered condolences and prayed for the victims.[31]

Governor of Sindh Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan has expressed grief over the loss of life in the fire incident and expressed sympathy with the injured of the incident. He then directed the officials concerned to utilise all available resources to control the blaze and ordered an inquiry into the incident. He has also directed the respective authorities to ensure the victims do not face any problems in their treatment and recovery. He also prayed for the early recovery of the injured.[32]

Pakistan's parliament then unanimously passed a resolution asking provincial and federal authorities to fully investigate the accidents.[33] According to the Geo TV, under Factory Act 1934, the owner will have to pay only Rs. 5000 in penalty over negligence in the protection of workers.[34] The leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif has announced Rs. 300,000 in aid to the families of those killed in this incident.[35] On 13 September it was reported that the Sind provincial government would offer financial compensation of Rs. 500,000s to the families of the dead victims and Rs. 50,000 to those who had been injured,[36] while the city's power utility company, KESC, announced they would waive all outstanding balances of the victims as a goodwill gesture.[5] Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah also announced further compensation of Rs. 300,000 for the families of the dead and Rs. 50,000 for those who had been injured.[37][38]

In Lahore, the Punjab Government announced the same value for the families of those who died and Rs. 75,000 for each of those who had been injured as compensation.[9][39]

Real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain also announced cash assistance of Rs. 200,000 for the family members of those killed in both the factory fires and Rs. 100,000 for those who had been injured.[40] Zohra Yusuf, Chair of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has urged government officials to initiate a full probe of the disaster and conditions surrounding the facilities, echoing claims made from the head of fire fighting that factory was dangerous.[5]

International reaction

International
  • The International Labour Organization's Country Director Francesco d'Ovidio said that akin to other developing countries, working and safety conditions in Pakistan's industrial sector were inadequate. Though the ILO is acquainted with the issues, it acknowledged that it could not be resolved quickly. He said: "The ILO is aware that there are a lot of factories in Pakistan that are scattered [and] many of them are not registered, so it is very difficult to implement the law. It is very important to ensure that all these factories are registered so that it is possible to follow the situation in all these factories." He further pointed to the need for effective inspection and monitoring, but added that shutting down the illegal and unregistered units would not help as it could lead to massive unemployment.[33]
States
  •  China: Ambassador Liu Jian called on Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad Khan on 13 September to convey his condolences on behalf of the government and people of China. He also presented cheques of Rs. 3 million on behalf of the Chinese government for the families of victims.[41]
  •  France: The embassy quoted a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement: "We were deeply shocked to learn that two fires in Pakistan - in Karachi and in Lahore - have, according to the latest report, resulted in the death of more than 200 people. In these painful circumstances, we extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims."[42]
  •  India: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered his condolences to his Pakistani counterpart, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, saying: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of lives in the fire accidents in Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday, 11 September. On behalf of the government and the people of India, and on my own behalf, I convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the two tragedies."[43]
  •  Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered condolences to the Pakistani government and the country saying: "The news on getting killed and wounded of a large number of your good self's citizens following two vast and horrendous fire incidents in cities of Karachi and Lahore deeply saddened and depressed us, and that while condoling with you, the Pakistan government, and noble Pakistani nation, personally, and on behalf of the Iranian government and the great Iranian nation, I pray to Almighty Allah for the salvation of the souls of the bygone victims, fast recovery of the injured victims, patience for the victims' bereaved families, and prosperity and wellbeing for the friend and brother Pakistani nation."[44][45]
  •  Qatar: Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani sent a cable to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari expressing his condolences and sympathies to the families of victims. Deputy Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani sent a similar cable to Zardari.[46]
  •  United Kingdom: Baroness Warsi, senior minister of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, also expressed her grief and said: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life caused by devastating factory fires in Karachi and Lahore and to hear that so many of the victims were children. I send my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all the victims. Our thoughts and prayers are with them."[47]
  •  United States: The chargé d'affaires at the U.S. embassy, Richard Hoagland, offered condolences in a press release.[48] on behalf of the U.S. government and its people to Pakistan[49] Lahore Consul General Nina Maria Fite also extended condolences on behalf of the consulate and the U.S. people: "I would like to offer our deepest condolences to the victims of the tragic fire incidents that together claimed so many innocent lives."[50]
NGOs
  • The Asian Human Rights Commission conveyed its "sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and friends in these fires and calls on the government of Pakistan to ensure a credible and transparent investigation into their cause."[51]

See also

References

  1. ^ Mansoor, Kamran (12 September 2012). "Karachi inferno toll hits 298". The News International. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b Shah, Imtiaz; Akhtar Soomro (12 September 2012). "Fires engulf Pakistan factories killing 314 workers". Reuters. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Pakistan: Hundreds Die In Factory Blazes". Yahoo! News. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  4. ^ "289 killed in Karachi factory fire in Pakistan". China Daily. Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Zia ur-Rehman; Declan Walsh & Salman Masood (12 September 2012). "Pakistan Factory Fires Kill More Than 300". The New York Times. NYT Asia Pacific. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  6. ^ Chaudary, K.M. (12 September 2012). "Death toll in Pakistani fires hits 314". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Labor force – CIA". Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Field Listing –- Labor force –- CIA". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Human error not the cause of fire, says municipal official". Business Recorder. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Karachi factory fire highlights risks for workers". The Dawn. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  11. ^ Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg. "250 Brandopfer in Pakistan: Katastrophenfabrik produzierte für Discounter Kik". Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  12. ^ Cath Turner (22 September 2012). "Pakistan plant certified safe before disaster [video]". Al Jazeera.
  13. ^ Declan Walsh; Steven Greenhouse (19 September 2012). "Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  14. ^ a b Tanoli, Qadeer (12 September 2012). "No killed worker had appointment letter". The News International. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Deadly factory fire: Activist says MQM men ignited Baldia blaze: Rangers | The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  16. ^ a b Siddiqui, Tahir (7 February 2015). "Rangers' report blames MQM for Baldia factory fire". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Karachi factory fire: All emergency exits were locked". CNN-IBN. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  18. ^ Sahoutara, Naeem (20 September 2019). "Owner names MQM lawmaker, six others in Baldia factory fire case". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Baldia factory fire: Owners reveal details of extortion". www.geo.tv. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Pakistan: Lahore and Karachi fires kill 32". BBC News. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  21. ^ "Baldia Town Karachi Factory Fire's Latest Reports - PIADS". Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  22. ^ Declan Walsh; Steven Greenhouse (7 December 2012). "Certified Safe, a Factory in Karachi Still Quickly Burned". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  23. ^ Tunio, Hafeez (4 December 2012). "Baldia factory fire: Short circuit, all of Karachi to blame for tragedy, says tribunal". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  24. ^ Memon, Sarfaraz (14 September 2012). "Karachi factory fire: Court grants bail to factory owners". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  25. ^ web edition. "Khi fire: Owners accounts to be frozen". The News. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  26. ^ web page. "Case lodged against factory owners". The News. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  27. ^ "SITE responsible for Baldia factory building plan, says SBCA". The News International. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  28. ^ Zafar, Abdullah Zafar (13 September 2012). "Karachi factory fire: Owner says ready to compensate victims". News Tribe. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  29. ^ a b "Karachi inferno toll hits 298". The News. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  30. ^ "Rauf Siddiqui resigns over Karachi factory fire". The Dawn. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  31. ^ Online. "Karachi Inferno: Factory cleared after 41 hours". The Nation. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  32. ^ "Will mere condolences heal the wounds of heirs?". The Nation. 13 September 2012. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  33. ^ a b Gul, Ayaz (13 September 2012). "Catastrophic Pakistan Fires Prompt for Calls Tighter Safety Laws". Voice of America. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  34. ^ "Factory Act: Only Rs.500 penalty over negligence". Geo TV. 14 September 2012. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  35. ^ "Factory fire tragedy: Punjab government announces Rs. 3 lacs aid package for victims". The Dawn. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  36. ^ Javeria, Nasir. "Karachi Fire: Govt announces compensation for affected families". AAJ News. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  37. ^ "Fire in Karachi garment factory kills over 300". The First Post. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  38. ^ Recorder Report (13 September 2012). "Human error not the cause of fire, says municipal official". Business Recorder. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  39. ^ "Rs 500,000 compensation for each dead in shoe factory fire incident". Business Recorder. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  40. ^ "Malik Riaz announces cash aid for fire victims". Daily Times. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  41. ^ "China, France, US condole with fire victims' families". Daily Times. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  42. ^ "France extends condolences to bereaved families". Business Recorder. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  43. ^ "Manmohan Singh expresses condolences over Pakistan fire tragedies". The ExpressTribune. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  44. ^ "Iran Condoles with Pakistan over Tragic Fire Accident". Fars News Agency. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  45. ^ "Iran offers condolences to Pakistan over factory fires". Press TV. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  46. ^ "Emir condoles fire tragedy in Pakistan". The Peninsula. 15 September 2012. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  47. ^ "Warsi expresses grief over deaths in factory fires". Daily Times. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  48. ^ "Statement by Charge d'affaires Richard Hoagland on the Tragic Factory Fires". US embassy in Islamanad. Archived from the original on 19 February 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  49. ^ "US saddened over heavy loss of life in Karachi fire". Business Recorder. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  50. ^ "China, France, US condole with fire victims' families". Daily Times. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  51. ^ "PAKISTAN: Over 300 labourers killed in fires -- a total collapse of the state". Asian Human Rights Commission. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.

External links

Coordinates: 24°51′36″N 67°00′36″E / 24.86000°N 67.01000°E / 24.86000; 67.01000

6 August 2012

NASA’s Curiosity rover lands on the surface of Mars.

Curiosity
Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Big Sky' Drilling Site.jpg
Self-portrait of Curiosity located at the foothill of Mount Sharp (October 6, 2015)
Mission typeMars rover
OperatorNASA
COSPAR ID2011-070A
SATCAT no.37936
Websitemars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
Mission durationPrimary: 668 sols (687 days)
Current: 2849 sols (2927 days) since landing[1]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer
Dry massRover only: 899 kg (1,982 lb)[2]
Start of mission
Launch dateNovember 26th, 2011, 15:02:00 (2011-11-26UTC15:02Z) UTC[3][4][5]
RocketAtlas V 541 (AV-028)
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-41[6]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric (transfer)
Mars rover
Spacecraft componentRover
Landing dateAugust 6th, 2012, 05:17:57 UTC SCET[7][8]
Landing siteAeolis Palus ("Bradbury Landing"[9]) in the crater Gale
(4°35′22″S 137°26′30″E / 4.5895°S 137.4417°E / -4.5895; 137.4417 (Curiosity))[10][11]
Distance covered22.97 km (14.27 mi)[12]
as of 22 July 2020
Mars rovers (NASA)
 

Curiosity is a car-sized rover designed to explore Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).[3] Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26th, 2011, at 15:02 UTC and landed on Aeolis Palus inside Gale on Mars on August 6th, 2012, 05:17 UTC.[7][8][13] The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of the rover's touchdown target after a 560 million km (350 million mi) journey.[9][14] The rover's goals include an investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for human exploration.[15][16]

In December 2012, Curiosity's two-year mission was extended indefinitely,[17] and on August 5th, 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing.[18][19] The rover is still operational, and as of August 11, 2020, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 2849 sols (2927 total days) since landing on August 6th, 2012. (See current status.) The NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Project Team was awarded the 2012 Robert J. Collier Trophy by the National Aeronautic Association "In recognition of the extraordinary achievements of successfully landing Curiosity on Mars, advancing the nation's technological and engineering capabilities, and significantly improving humanity's understanding of ancient Martian habitable environments."[20]

Curiosity's rover design will serve as the basis for NASA's 2021 Perseverance mission which will carry different scientific instruments.

Mission

Goals and objectives

Animation of the Curiosity rover, showing its capabilities

As established by the Mars Exploration Program, the main scientific goals of the MSL mission are to help determine whether Mars could ever have supported life, as well as determining the role of water, and to study the climate and geology of Mars.[15][16] The mission results will also help prepare for human exploration.[16] To contribute to these goals, MSL has eight main scientific objectives:[21]

Biological
  1. Determine the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds
  2. Investigate the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur)
  3. Identify features that may represent the effects of biological processes (biosignatures and biomolecules)
Geological and geochemical
  1. Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials
  2. Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils
Planetary process
  1. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes
  2. Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide
Surface radiation
  1. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic and cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons. As part of its exploration, it also measured the radiation exposure in the interior of the spacecraft as it traveled to Mars, and it is continuing radiation measurements as it explores the surface of Mars. This data would be important for a future crewed mission.[22]

About one year into the surface mission, and having assessed that ancient Mars could have been hospitable to microbial life, the MSL mission objectives evolved to developing predictive models for the preservation process of organic compounds and biomolecules; a branch of paleontology called taphonomy.[23] The region it is set to explore has been compared to the Four Corners region of the North American west.[24]

Name

A NASA panel selected the name Curiosity following a nationwide student contest that attracted more than 9,000 proposals via the Internet and mail. A sixth-grade student from Kansas, 12-year-old Clara Ma from Sunflower Elementary School in Lenexa, Kansas, submitted the winning entry. As her prize, Ma won a trip to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where she signed her name directly onto the rover as it was being assembled.[25]

Ma wrote in her winning essay:

Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.[25]

Rover and lander specifications

Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover (MER) test vehicle that is a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012.
Sojourner is 65 cm (2.13 ft) long. The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) are 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long. Curiosity on the right is 3 m (9.8 ft) long.

Curiosity is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height,[26] larger than Mars Exploration Rovers, which are 1.5 m (4.9 ft) long and have a mass of 174 kg (384 lb) including 6.8 kg (15 lb) of scientific instruments.[27][28][29] In comparison to Pancam on the Mars Exploration Rovers, the MastCam-34 has 1.25× higher spatial resolution and the MastCam-100 has 3.67× higher spatial resolution.[30]

Curiosity has an advanced payload of scientific equipment on Mars.[31] It is the fourth NASA robotic rover sent to Mars since 1996. Previous successful Mars rovers are Sojourner from the Mars Pathfinder mission (1997), and Spirit (2004–2010) and Opportunity (2004–2019) rovers from the Mars Exploration Rover mission.

Curiosity comprised 23% of the mass of the 3,893 kg (8,583 lb) spacecraft at launch. The remaining mass was discarded in the process of transport and landing.

  • Dimensions: Curiosity has a mass of 899 kg (1,982 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments.[27] The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height.[26]
Radioisotope pellet within a graphite shell that fuels the generator
Radioisotope power systems (RPSs) are generators that produce electricity from the decay of radioactive isotopes, such as plutonium-238, which is a non-fissile isotope of plutonium. Heat given off by the decay of this isotope is converted into electric voltage by thermocouples, providing constant power during all seasons and through the day and night. Waste heat is also used via pipes to warm systems, freeing electrical power for the operation of the vehicle and instruments.[32][33] Curiosity's RTG is fueled by 4.8 kg (11 lb) of plutonium-238 dioxide supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy.[34]
Curiosity's RTG is the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), designed and built by Rocketdyne and Teledyne Energy Systems under contract to the U.S. Department of Energy,[35] and assembled and tested by the Idaho National Laboratory.[36] Based on legacy RTG technology, it represents a more flexible and compact development step,[37] and is designed to produce 110 watts of electrical power and about 2,000 watts of thermal power at the start of the mission.[32][33] The MMRTG produces less power over time as its plutonium fuel decays: at its minimum lifetime of 14 years, electrical power output is down to 100 watts.[38][39] The power source generates 9 MJ (2.5 kWh) of electrical energy each day, much more than the solar panels of the now retired Mars Exploration Rovers, which generated about 2.1 MJ (0.58 kWh) each day. The electrical output from the MMRTG charges two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. This enables the power subsystem to meet peak power demands of rover activities when the demand temporarily exceeds the generator's steady output level. Each battery has a capacity of about 42 ampere-hours.
  • Heat rejection system: The temperatures at the landing site can vary from −127 to 40 °C (−197 to 104 °F); therefore, the thermal system warms the rover for most of the Martian year. The thermal system does so in several ways: passively, through the dissipation to internal components; by electrical heaters strategically placed on key components; and by using the rover heat rejection system (HRS).[40] It uses fluid pumped through 60 m (200 ft) of tubing in the rover body so that sensitive components are kept at optimal temperatures.[41] The fluid loop serves the additional purpose of rejecting heat when the rover has become too warm, and it can also gather waste heat from the power source by pumping fluid through two heat exchangers that are mounted alongside the RTG. The HRS also has the ability to cool components if necessary.[41]
  • Computers: The two identical on-board rover computers, called Rover Compute Element (RCE) contain radiation hardened memory to tolerate the extreme radiation from space and to safeguard against power-off cycles. The computers run the VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS). Each computer's memory includes 256 kB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM, and 2 GB of flash memory.[42] For comparison, the Mars Exploration Rovers used 3 MB of EEPROM, 128 MB of DRAM, and 256 MB of flash memory.[43]
The RCE computers use the RAD750 CPU, which is a successor to the RAD6000 CPU of the Mars Exploration Rovers.[44][45] The RAD750 CPU, a radiation-hardened version of the PowerPC 750, can execute up to 400 MIPS, while the RAD6000 CPU is capable of up to only 35 MIPS.[46][47] Of the two on-board computers, one is configured as backup and will take over in the event of problems with the main computer.[42] On February 28, 2013, NASA was forced to switch to the backup computer due to a problem with the active computer's flash memory, which resulted in the computer continuously rebooting in a loop. The backup computer was turned on in safe mode and subsequently returned to active status on March 4.[48] The same problem happened in late March, resuming full operations on March 25, 2013.[49]
The rover has an inertial measurement unit (IMU) that provides 3-axis information on its position, which is used in rover navigation.[42] The rover's computers are constantly self-monitoring to keep the rover operational, such as by regulating the rover's temperature.[42] Activities such as taking pictures, driving, and operating the instruments are performed in a command sequence that is sent from the flight team to the rover.[42] The rover installed its full surface operations software after the landing because its computers did not have sufficient main memory available during flight. The new software essentially replaced the flight software.[14]
The rover has four processors. One of them is a SPARC processor that runs the rover's thrusters and descent-stage motors as it descended through the Martian atmosphere. Two others are PowerPC processors: the main processor, which handles nearly all of the rover's ground functions, and that processor's backup. The fourth one, another SPARC processor, commands the rover's movement and is part of its motor controller box. All four processors are single core.[50]
Curiosity transmits to Earth directly or via three relay satellites in Mars orbit.
  • Communications: Curiosity is equipped with significant telecommunication redundancy by several means: an X band transmitter and receiver that can communicate directly with Earth, and a UHF Electra-Lite software-defined radio for communicating with Mars orbiters.[40] Communication with orbiters is the main path for data return to Earth, since the orbiters have both more power and larger antennas than the lander, allowing for faster transmission speeds.[40] Telecommunication included a small deep space transponder on the descent stage and a solid-state power amplifier on the rover for X band. The rover also has two UHF radios,[40] the signals of which orbiting relay satellites are capable of relaying back to Earth. Signals between Earth and Mars take an average of 14 minutes, 6 seconds.[51] Curiosity can communicate with Earth directly at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but the bulk of the data transfer is being relayed through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey orbiter. Data transfer speeds between Curiosity and each orbiter may reach 2000 kbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is able to communicate with Curiosity for only about eight minutes per day (0.56% of the time).[52] Communication from and to Curiosity relies on internationally agreed space data communications protocols as defined by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems.[53]
JPL is the central data distribution hub where selected data products are provided to remote science operations sites as needed. JPL is also the central hub for the uplink process, though participants are distributed at their respective home institutions.[40] At landing, telemetry was monitored by three orbiters, depending on their dynamic location: the 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA's Mars Express satellite.[54] As of February 2019, the MAVEN orbiter is being positioned to serve as a relay orbiter while continuing its science mission.[55]
  • Mobility systems: Curiosity is equipped with six 50 cm (20 in) diameter wheels in a rocker-bogie suspension. The suspension system also served as landing gear for the vehicle, unlike its smaller predecessors.[56][57] Each wheel has cleats and is independently actuated and geared, providing for climbing in soft sand and scrambling over rocks. Each front and rear wheel can be independently steered, allowing the vehicle to turn in place as well as execute arcing turns.[40] Each wheel has a pattern that helps it maintain traction but also leaves patterned tracks in the sandy surface of Mars. That pattern is used by on-board cameras to estimate the distance traveled. The pattern itself is Morse code for "JPL" (·--- ·--· ·-··).[58] The rover is capable of climbing sand dunes with slopes up to 12.5°.[59] Based on the center of mass, the vehicle can withstand a tilt of at least 50° in any direction without overturning, but automatic sensors limit the rover from exceeding 30° tilts.[40] After six years of use, the wheels are visibly worn with punctures and tears.[60]
Curiosity can roll over obstacles approaching 65 cm (26 in) in height,[31] and it has a ground clearance of 60 cm (24 in).[61] Based on variables including power levels, terrain difficulty, slippage and visibility, the maximum terrain-traverse speed is estimated to be 200 m (660 ft) per day by automatic navigation.[31] The rover landed about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the base of Mount Sharp,[62] (officially named Aeolis Mons) and it is expected to traverse a minimum of 19 km (12 mi) during its primary two-year mission.[63] It can travel up to 90 m (300 ft) per hour but average speed is about 30 m (98 ft) per hour.[63] The vehicle is 'driven' by several operators led by Vandi Verma, group leader of Autonomous Systems, Mobility and Robotic Systems at JPL,[64][65] who also cowrote the PLEXIL language used to operate the rover.[66][67][68]

Landing

Curiosity landed in Quad 51 (nicknamed Yellowknife) of Aeolis Palus in the crater Gale.[69][70][71][72] The landing site coordinates are: 4°35′22″S 137°26′30″E / 4.5895°S 137.4417°E / -4.5895; 137.4417.[10][11] The location was named Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012, in honor of science fiction author Ray Bradbury.[9] Gale, an estimated 3.5 to 3.8 billion-year-old impact crater, is hypothesized to have first been gradually filled in by sediments; first water-deposited, and then wind-deposited, possibly until it was completely covered. Wind erosion then scoured out the sediments, leaving an isolated 5.5-kilometer-high (3.4 mi) mountain, Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp"), at the center of the 154 km (96 mi) wide crater. Thus, it is believed that the rover may have the opportunity to study two billion years of Martian history in the sediments exposed in the mountain. Additionally, its landing site is near an alluvial fan, which is hypothesized to be the result of a flow of ground water, either before the deposition of the eroded sediments or else in relatively recent geologic history.[73][74]

According to NASA, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 heat-resistant bacterial spores were on Curiosity at launch, and as much as 1,000 times that number may not have been counted.[75]

Curiosity and surrounding area as viewed by MRO/HiRISE. North is left. (August 14, 2012; enhanced colors)

Rover's landing system

NASA video describing the landing procedure. NASA dubbed the landing as "Seven Minutes of Terror".

Previous NASA Mars rovers became active only after the successful entry, descent and landing on the Martian surface. Curiosity, on the other hand, was active when it touched down on the surface of Mars, employing the rover suspension system for the final set-down.[76]

Curiosity transformed from its stowed flight configuration to a landing configuration while the MSL spacecraft simultaneously lowered it beneath the spacecraft descent stage with a 20 m (66 ft) tether from the "sky crane" system to a soft landing—wheels down—on the surface of Mars.[77][78][79][80] After the rover touched down it waited 2 seconds to confirm that it was on solid ground then fired several pyrotechnic fasteners activating cable cutters on the bridle to free itself from the spacecraft descent stage. The descent stage then flew away to a crash landing, and the rover prepared itself to begin the science portion of the mission.[81]

Daily operations

The rover spends a lot of its time idle because it will stop and spend extended periods of time at major science waypoints.

Communication with the rover is not instantaneous. There is a delay in transmitting commands to the rover, and there is a delay receiving imagery back from the rover. Depending on the distance between Earth and Mars, the delay is between 4 to 24 minutes, and averages 14 minutes. As a result, navigation is done by sending a command such as "drive forward X distance" or "drive toward X place", and the rover will use its cameras and computers to drive to those locations autonomously.

See : Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory

Travel status

On April 16, 2020, the rover is now 13.66 miles away from its landing site.[82] As of April 17, 2020, the rover has been driven on less than 800 out of 2736 sols (Martian days).

Scientific instruments

Instrument location diagram

The general sample analysis strategy begins with high-resolution cameras to look for features of interest. If a particular surface is of interest, Curiosity can vaporize a small portion of it with an infrared laser and examine the resulting spectra signature to query the rock's elemental composition. If that signature is intriguing, the rover uses its long arm to swing over a microscope and an X-ray spectrometer to take a closer look. If the specimen warrants further analysis, Curiosity can drill into the boulder and deliver a powdered sample to either the SAM or the CheMin analytical laboratories inside the rover.[83][84][85] The MastCam, Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) cameras were developed by Malin Space Science Systems and they all share common design components, such as on-board electronic imaging processing boxes, 1600×1200 CCDs, and an RGB Bayer pattern filter.[86][87][88][89][30][90]

In total, the rover carries 17 cameras: HazCams (8), NavCams (4), MastCams (2), MAHLI (1), MARDI (1), and ChemCam (1).[91]

Mast Camera (MastCam)

The turret at the end of the robotic arm holds five devices.

The MastCam system provides multiple spectra and true-color imaging with two cameras.[87] The cameras can take true-color images at 1600×1200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed video at 720p (1280×720).[92]

One MastCam camera is the Medium Angle Camera (MAC), which has a 34 mm (1.3 in) focal length, a 15° field of view, and can yield 22 cm/pixel (8.7 in/pixel) scale at 1 km (0.62 mi). The other camera in the MastCam is the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC), which has a 100 mm (3.9 in) focal length, a 5.1° field of view, and can yield 7.4 cm/pixel (2.9 in/pixel) scale at 1 km (0.62 mi).[87] Malin also developed a pair of MastCams with zoom lenses,[93] but these were not included in the rover because of the time required to test the new hardware and the looming November 2011 launch date.[94] However, the improved zoom version was selected to be incorporated on the upcoming Mars 2020 mission as Mastcam-Z.[95]

Each camera has eight gigabytes of flash memory, which is capable of storing over 5,500 raw images, and can apply real time lossless data compression.[87] The cameras have an autofocus capability that allows them to focus on objects from 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) to infinity.[30] In addition to the fixed RGBG Bayer pattern filter, each camera has an eight-position filter wheel. While the Bayer filter reduces visible light throughput, all three colors are mostly transparent at wavelengths longer than 700 nm, and have minimal effect on such infrared observations.[87]

Chemistry and Camera complex (ChemCam)

The internal spectrometer (left) and the laser telescope (right) for the mast

ChemCam is a suite of two remote sensing instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The ChemCam instrument suite was developed by the French CESR laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.[96][97][98] The flight model of the mast unit was delivered from the French CNES to Los Alamos National Laboratory.[99] The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI gives ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets.[96][100] The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample up to 7 m (23 ft) away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observes the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock.[101]

First laser spectrum of chemical elements from ChemCam on Curiosity ("Coronation" rock, August 19, 2012)

ChemCam has the ability to record up to 6,144 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light.[102] Detection of the ball of luminous plasma is done in the visible, near-UV and near-infrared ranges, between 240 nm and 800 nm.[96] The first initial laser testing of the ChemCam by Curiosity on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), near Bradbury Landing on August 19, 2012.[103][104][105] The ChemCam team expects to take approximately one dozen compositional measurements of rocks per day.[106]

Using the same collection optics, the RMI provides context images of the LIBS analysis spots. The RMI resolves 1 mm (0.039 in) objects at 10 m (33 ft) distance, and has a field of view covering 20 cm (7.9 in) at that distance.[96]

Navigation cameras (navcams)

First full-resolution Navcam images

The rover has two pairs of black and white navigation cameras mounted on the mast to support ground navigation.[107][108] The cameras have a 45° angle of view and use visible light to capture stereoscopic 3-D imagery.[108][109]

Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS)

REMS comprises instruments to measure the Mars environment: humidity, pressure, temperatures, wind speeds, and ultraviolet radiation.[110] It is a meteorological package that includes an ultraviolet sensor provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. The investigative team is led by Javier Gómez-Elvira of the Spanish Astrobiology Center and includes the Finnish Meteorological Institute as a partner.[111][112] All sensors are located around three elements: two booms attached to the rover's mast, the Ultraviolet Sensor (UVS) assembly located on the rover top deck, and the Instrument Control Unit (ICU) inside the rover body. REMS provides new clues about the Martian general circulation, micro scale weather systems, local hydrological cycle, destructive potential of UV radiation, and subsurface habitability based on ground-atmosphere interaction.[111]

Hazard avoidance cameras (hazcams)

The rover has four pairs of black and white navigation cameras called hazcams, two pairs in the front and two pairs in the back.[107][113] They are used for autonomous hazard avoidance during rover drives and for safe positioning of the robotic arm on rocks and soils.[113] Each camera in a pair is hardlinked to one of two identical main computers for redundancy; only four out of the eight cameras are in use at any one time. The cameras use visible light to capture stereoscopic three-dimensional (3-D) imagery.[113] The cameras have a 120° field of view and map the terrain at up to 3 m (9.8 ft) in front of the rover.[113] This imagery safeguards against the rover crashing into unexpected obstacles, and works in tandem with software that allows the rover to make its own safety choices.[113]

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)

MAHLI is a camera on the rover's robotic arm, and acquires microscopic images of rock and soil. MAHLI can take true-color images at 1600×1200 pixels with a resolution as high as 14.5 micrometers per pixel. MAHLI has an 18.3 to 21.3 mm (0.72 to 0.84 in) focal length and a 33.8–38.5° field of view.[88] MAHLI has both white and ultraviolet LED illumination for imaging in darkness or fluorescence imaging. MAHLI also has mechanical focusing in a range from infinite to millimeter distances.[88] This system can make some images with focus stacking processing.[114] MAHLI can store either the raw images or do real time lossless predictive or JPEG compression. The calibration target for MAHLI includes color references, a metric bar graphic, a 1909 VDB Lincoln penny, and a stair-step pattern for depth calibration.[115]

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS)

The APXS instrument irradiates samples with alpha particles and maps the spectra of X-rays that are re-emitted for determining the elemental composition of samples.[116] Curiosity's APXS was developed by the Canadian Space Agency.[116] MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), the Canadian aerospace company that built the Canadarm and RADARSAT, were responsible for the engineering design and building of the APXS. The APXS science team includes members from the University of Guelph, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Western Ontario, NASA, the University of California, San Diego and Cornell University.[117] The APXS instrument takes advantage of particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) and X-ray fluorescence, previously exploited by the Mars Pathfinder and the two Mars Exploration Rovers.[116][118]

Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin)

Curiosity's CheMin Spectrometer on Mars (September 11, 2012), with sample inlet seen closed and open.
First X-ray diffraction view of Martian soil (Curiosity at Rocknest, October 17, 2012).[119]

CheMin is the Chemistry and Mineralogy X-ray powder diffraction and fluorescence instrument.[120] CheMin is one of four spectrometers. It can identify and quantify the abundance of the minerals on Mars. It was developed by David Blake at NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,[121] and won the 2013 NASA Government Invention of the year award.[122] The rover can drill samples from rocks and the resulting fine powder is poured into the instrument via a sample inlet tube on the top of the vehicle. A beam of X-rays is then directed at the powder and the crystal structure of the minerals deflects it at characteristic angles, allowing scientists to identify the minerals being analyzed.[123]

On October 17, 2012, at "Rocknest", the first X-ray diffraction analysis of Martian soil was performed. The results revealed the presence of several minerals, including feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine, and suggested that the Martian soil in the sample was similar to the "weathered basaltic soils" of Hawaiian volcanoes.[119] The paragonetic tephra from a Hawaiian cinder cone has been mined to create Martian regolith simulant for researchers to use since 1998.[124][125]

Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)

First night-time pictures on Mars (white-light left/UV right) (Curiosity viewing Sayunei rock, January 22, 2013)

The SAM instrument suite analyzes organics and gases from both atmospheric and solid samples. It consists of instruments developed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the Laboratoire Inter-Universitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA) (jointly operated by France's CNRS and Parisian universities), and Honeybee Robotics, along with many additional external partners.[84][126][127] The three main instruments are a Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (QMS), a gas chromatograph (GC) and a tunable laser spectrometer (TLS). These instruments perform precision measurements of oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the atmosphere of Mars in order to distinguish between their geochemical or biological origin.[84][127][128][129][130]

Dust Removal Tool (DRT)

First use of Curiosity's Dust Removal Tool (DRT) (January 6, 2013); Ekwir_1 rock before/after cleaning (left) and closeup (right)

The Dust Removal Tool (DRT) is a motorized, wire-bristle brush on the turret at the end of Curiosity's arm. The DRT was first used on a rock target named Ekwir_1 on January 6, 2013. Honeybee Robotics built the DRT.[131]

Radiation assessment detector (RAD)

The role of the RAD instrument is to characterize the broad spectrum of radiation environment found inside the spacecraft during the cruise phase and while on Mars. These measurements have never been done before from the inside of a spacecraft in interplanetary space. Its primary purpose is to determine the viability and shielding needs for potential human explorers, as well as to characterize the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, which it started doing immediately after MSL landed in August 2012.[132] Funded by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters and Germany's Space Agency (DLR), RAD was developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the extraterrestrial physics group at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany.[132][133]

Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN)

The DAN instrument employs a neutron source and detector for measuring the quantity and depth of hydrogen or ice and water at or near the Martian surface.[134] The instrument consists of the detector element (DE) and a 14.1 MeV pulsing neutron generator (PNG). The die-away time of neutrons is measured by the DE after each neutron pulse from the PNG. DAN was provided by the Russian Federal Space Agency[135][136] and funded by Russia.[137]

Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)

MARDI camera

MARDI was fixed to the lower front left corner of the body of Curiosity. During the descent to the Martian surface, MARDI took color images at 1600×1200 pixels with a 1.3-millisecond exposure time starting at distances of about 3.7 km (2.3 mi) to near 5 m (16 ft) from the ground, at a rate of four frames per second for about two minutes.[89][138] MARDI has a pixel scale of 1.5 m (4.9 ft) at 2 km (1.2 mi) to 1.5 mm (0.059 in) at 2 m (6.6 ft) and has a 90° circular field of view. MARDI has eight gigabytes of internal buffer memory that is capable of storing over 4,000 raw images. MARDI imaging allowed the mapping of surrounding terrain and the location of landing.[89] JunoCam, built for the Juno spacecraft, is based on MARDI.[139]

Robotic arm

First use of Curiosity's scooper as it sifts a load of sand at Rocknest (October 7, 2012)

The rover has a 2.1 m (6.9 ft) long robotic arm with a cross-shaped turret holding five devices that can spin through a 350° turning range.[141][142] The arm makes use of three joints to extend it forward and to stow it again while driving. It has a mass of 30 kg (66 lb) and its diameter, including the tools mounted on it, is about 60 cm (24 in).[143] It was designed, built, and tested by MDA US Systems, building upon their prior robotic arm work on the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, the Phoenix lander, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.[144]

Two of the five devices are in-situ or contact instruments known as the X-ray spectrometer (APXS), and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI camera). The remaining three are associated with sample acquisition and sample preparation functions: a percussion drill; a brush; and mechanisms for scooping, sieving, and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.[141][143] The diameter of the hole in a rock after drilling is 1.6 cm (0.63 in) and up to 5 cm (2.0 in) deep.[142][145] The drill carries two spare bits.[145][146] The rover's arm and turret system can place the APXS and MAHLI on their respective targets, and also obtain powdered sample from rock interiors, and deliver them to the SAM and CheMin analyzers inside the rover.[142]

Since early 2015 the percussive mechanism in the drill that helps chisel into rock has had an intermittent electrical short.[147] On December 1, 2016, the motor inside the drill caused a malfunction that prevented the rover from moving its robotic arm and driving to another location.[148] The fault was isolated to the drill feed brake,[149] and internal debris is suspected of causing the problem.[147] By December 9, driving and robotic arm operations were cleared to continue, but drilling remained suspended indefinitely.[150] The Curiosity team continued to perform diagnostics and testing on the drill mechanism throughout 2017,[151] and resumed drilling operations on May 22, 2018.[152]

Media, cultural impact and legacy

Celebration erupts at NASA with the rover's successful landing on Mars (August 6, 2012).
President Barack Obama congratulates NASA's Curiosity team (August 13, 2012).[153]

Live video showing the first footage from the surface of Mars was available at NASA TV, during the late hours of August 6, 2012 PDT, including interviews with the mission team. The NASA website momentarily became unavailable from the overwhelming number of people visiting it,[154] and a 13-minute NASA excerpt of the landings on its YouTube channel was halted an hour after the landing by an automated DMCA takedown notice from Scripps Local News, which prevented access for several hours.[155] Around 1,000 people gathered in New York City's Times Square, to watch NASA's live broadcast of Curiosity's landing, as footage was being shown on the giant screen.[156] Bobak Ferdowsi, Flight Director for the landing, became an Internet meme and attained Twitter celebrity status, with 45,000 new followers subscribing to his Twitter account, due to his Mohawk hairstyle with yellow stars that he wore during the televised broadcast.[157][158]

On August 13, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama, calling from aboard Air Force One to congratulate the Curiosity team, said, "You guys are examples of American know-how and ingenuity. It's really an amazing accomplishment."[153] (Video (07:20))

U.S. flag on Mars
Plaque of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's signatures on Mars

Scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, California, viewed the CheMin instrument aboard Curiosity as a potentially valuable means to examine ancient works of art without damaging them. Until recently, only a few instruments were available to determine the composition without cutting out physical samples large enough to potentially damage the artifacts. CheMin directs a beam of X-rays at particles as small as 400 micrometers (0.016 in)[159] and reads the radiation scattered back to determine the composition of the artifact in minutes. Engineers created a smaller, portable version named the X-Duetto. Fitting into a few briefcase-sized boxes, it can examine objects on site, while preserving their physical integrity. It is now being used by Getty scientists to analyze a large collection of museum antiques and the Roman ruins of Herculaneum, Italy.[160]

Prior to the landing, NASA and Microsoft released Mars Rover Landing, a free downloadable game on Xbox Live that uses Kinect to capture body motions, which allows users to simulate the landing sequence.[161]

NASA gave the general public the opportunity from 2009 until 2011 to submit their names to be sent to Mars. More than 1.2 million people from the international community participated, and their names were etched into silicon using an electron-beam machine used for fabricating micro devices at JPL, and this plaque is now installed on the deck of Curiosity.[162] In keeping with a 40-year tradition, a plaque with the signatures of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was also installed. Elsewhere on the rover is the autograph of Clara Ma, the 12-year-old girl from Kansas who gave Curiosity its name in an essay contest, writing in part that "curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives."[163]

On August 6, 2013, Curiosity audibly played "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing, the first time for a song to be played on another planet. This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets.[164]

On June 24, 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year—687 Earth days—after finding that Mars once had environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.[165] Curiosity served as the basis for the design of the Perseverance rover for the Mars 2020 rover mission. Some spare parts from the build and ground test of Curiosity are being used in the new vehicle, but it will carry a different instrument payload.[166]

On August 5, 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity rover mission landing, and related exploratory accomplishments, on the planet Mars.[18][19] (Videos: Curiosity's First Five Years (02:07); Curiosity's POV: Five Years Driving (05:49); Curiosity's Discoveries About Gale Crater (02:54))

As reported in 2018, drill samples taken in 2015 uncovered organic molecules of benzene and propane in 3 billion year old rock samples in Gale.[167][168][169]

Images

Descent of Curiosity (video-02:26; August 6, 2012)
Interactive 3D model of the rover (with extended arm)

Components of Curiosity

Orbital images

Rover images

Self-portraits

Curiosity rover on Mount Sharp on Mars — self-portraits
"Rocknest"
(Oct2012)
"JohnKlein"
(May2013)
"Windjana"
(May2014)
"Mojave"
(Jan2015)
"Buckskin"
(Aug2015)
"BigSky"
(Oct2015)
"Namib"
(Jan 2016)
"Murray"
(Sep2016)
"VeraRubin"
(Jan2018)
"DustStorm"
(Jun2018)
"VeraRubin"
(Jan2019)
"Aberlady"
(May2019)
"GlenEtive"
(Oct2019)

Wide images

Curiosity's first 360° color panorama image (August 8, 2012)[170][171]
Curiosity's view of Mount Sharp (September 20, 2012; raw color version)
Curiosity's view of the Rocknest area. South is at center, north is at both ends. Mount Sharp dominates the horizon, while Glenelg is left-of-center and rover tracks are right-of-center (November 16, 2012; white balanced; raw color version; high-res panoramic).
Curiosity's view from Rocknest looking east toward Point Lake (center) on the way to Glenelg (November 26, 2012; white balanced; raw color version)
Curiosity's view of "Mount Sharp" (September 9, 2015)
Curiosity's view of Mars sky at sunset (February 2013; Sun simulated by artist)
Curiosity's view of Glen Torridon near Mount Sharp, the rover's highest-resolution 360° panoramic image of over 1.8 billion pixels (at full size) from over 1000 photos taken between November 24 and December 1, 2019
Acheron FossaeAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia PlanitiaArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArgentea PlanumArgyre PlanitiaChryse PlanitiaClaritas FossaeCydonia MensaeDaedalia PlanumElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaGale craterHadriaca PateraHellas MontesHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumHolden craterIcaria PlanumIsidis PlanitiaJezero craterLomonosov craterLucus PlanumLycus SulciLyot craterLunae PlanumMalea PlanumMaraldi craterMareotis FossaeMareotis TempeMargaritifer TerraMie craterMilankovič craterNepenthes MensaeNereidum MontesNilosyrtis MensaeNoachis TerraOlympica FossaeOlympus MonsPlanum AustralePromethei TerraProtonilus MensaeSirenumSisyphi PlanumSolis PlanumSyria PlanumTantalus FossaeTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesTractus CatenaTyrrhen TerraUlysses PateraUranius PateraUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisXanthe TerraMap of Mars
The image above contains clickable linksInteractive image map of the global topography of Mars, overlain with locations of Mars landers and rovers. Hover your mouse over the image to see the names of over 60 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by pinks and reds (+8 to +3 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevations (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Polar regions are noted.
(   Rover  Lander  Future )
Beagle 2
Bradbury Landing
Deep Space 2
Columbia Memorial Station
InSight Landing
Mars 2020
Mars 2
Mars 3
Mars 6
Mars Polar Lander
Challenger Memorial Station
Green Valley
Schiaparelli EDM lander
Carl Sagan Memorial Station
Columbia Memorial Station
Thomas Mutch Memorial Station
Gerald Soffen Memorial Station

See also

References

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