What Was It: The Man Who Drives The $2.6b Mars Curiosity Rover

Matt Heverly has one of the coolest jobs in the solar system: he drives rovers. On Mars. He drove NASA's Opportunity rover for four years, and now he's getting ready for the biggest mission in the history of NASA's planetary exploration -- driving the $US2.6 billion car-sized Curiosity rover after it lands on Sunday.

I love robots. If they are exploring Mars or vacuuming your floor, the idea of a machine intelligently doing a task for you has always been interesting. I always loved to design and build things, and when I discovered that I could make that thing that I built do something cool, I was hooked.

I have worked on snake robots to repair gas pipelines, robots to help with surgery and legged robots that might help explore the Moon. I was fortunate enough to drive the Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars for four years and am now preparing to drive Curiosity once she lands safely on August 5. Curiosity will allow us to add another chapter to our understanding of the red planet.

She is the most capable rover ever sent to Mars and will allow us to explore Gale Crater and the 5km tall Mount Sharp as we search for the building blocks of life.

What Was It is a series of short interviews co-hosted that asks the luminaries of science and technology what inspired them.

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    What a rubbish headline. And NASA and this bloke for using a nonsense terms like DRIVE the rover. They might set navigation and way points, and assist the robot when it beams back difficult situations, which they will analyze send back a Navigation method, but it is impossible to do anything in real time with a device on Mars. Even at the closest point, it still takes like 3 minutes for a signal to reach Mars. So, I call this busted and a bit sensationalistic. But I guess its PR for the youngsters. "When I grow up I wanna drive a rover on Mars"

    For interest, this thing is expected to travel at about 10 meters an hour.

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