A lot of dust can accumulate over a year, and no place is that more true than on the surface of Mars. A high resolution photo of a 1909 VDB Lincoln cent delivered from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity pays testament to that.
The classic United States coin is now covered in Martian dust that has built up ever since Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6, 2012.
NASA placed the 1909 Lincoln cent on Curiosity as a homage to geologists’ tradition of using an object to scale specimens. The coin is attached to a calibration target used by the rover’s camera known as the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI.
MAHLI’s principal investigator, Ken Edgett, had recommended the inclusion of the coin. He chose the 1909 VDB Lincoln cent because Curiosity was originally scheduled to launch in 2009, the centennial of the introduction of the Lincoln cent. Unfortunately, the rover did not blast off until 2011 but the cent remained since its specifications had already been approved.
"Everyone in the United States can recognize the penny and immediately know how big it is, and can compare that with the rover hardware and Mars materials in the same image," offered Edgett as reasoning for his choice of the cent.
Coins have been used on previous NASA missions. This marked the first time, however, that one would be subjected to the conditions of another planet while being monitored.
Since landing, the rover has traveled under two kilometers, yet collected 190 gigabits of data and sent back tens of thousands of images including shots of the penny.
Lincoln cents first debuted in 1909 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. The coin was designed by artist Victor David Brenner as part of a larger coin initiative established by President Theodore Roosevelt. The artist’s initials originally appeared on the reverse of the strike.
For the latest news about NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity and the Mars mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/.
Finally, here are two more photos of the penny and Curiosity while on Earth.