A SCOTS scientist on the Mars rover team described the first video transmissions of the Curiosity robot as a “special moment”.
Dr John Bridges, who grew up in Aberdeen, is one of two British team leaders on the Mars Science Laboratory Mission.
He is responsible for analysing the data the six-tonne Curiosity robot sends back from Mars – 225 million km away.
Dr Bridges, 46, has now returned to his base at the University of Leicester after spending three months in Pasadena, California – the same location of science sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
The planetary expert said: “It was a fascinating experience – it was very exciting and a combination of a lot of work by a lot of people over a lot of years.
“It’s been satisfying and rewarding. The launch was thrilling and when we got our bits of data back there were a lot of happy people.
“We have found a lot of interesting data, some of it unexpected and some of what we expected.”
Curiosity landed on the Mars surface on 5 August 2012 after a tense nine-month journey from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA.
Dr Bridges added: “The wow moment for me was when we started getting images as the rover was driving down an old riverbed and saw these pebbles that you would get in a stream on Earth.
“That was a special moment. It was very pleasant t be one of the first people to see that.”
This week it is also scheduled to start drilling the first of its rock samples after 151 days of image capturing and other analysis.
Unlike the UK’s unsuccessful Beagle 2 mission in 2003, Curiosity has worked so well that space bosses have extended its mission indefinitely – rather than its original two year time-frame.
Dr Bridges said: “Getting to Mars is full of risks. Those who worked on the Beagle 2 mission know that, which is why landing on August 5 was a very special moment for all the scientists and engineers.
“The rover is functioning well so it’s looking promising for a long and successful mission.”