Mars rover Curiosity exemplifies human innovation

On Monday, August 6, 2012, history was made as the Mars rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of the Red Planet. While Curiosity is not the first to journey to Mars, it is the tip of the most advanced scientific spear in mankind's modern day arsenal.

The data that will be collected in the next few years is expected to shed light on mysteries that have thus far only been explained in tales of science fiction and fantasy. And when this data comes back, the knowledge it holds for us will only have been obtainable because of true human innovation and manufacturing ingenuity.

A myriad of technological advancements in the last decade have found their way onto Curiosity. No human being has ever set foot on the surface of Mars, so the imagination and innovation required to put such a rover in that environment and effectively collect all manner of scientific data is astounding.

Take, for example, the Power Acquisition Drill System (PADS). This rotary percussive device allows Curiosity to drill two inches into the Martian surface and analyze rock samples. If the drill bit gets stuck at any point, the PADS device can disengage it and replace it with a spare. Only the most advanced metal joining methods allow the drill to move with such precision and dexterity.

In the classic TV series "The West Wing," a character played by Rob Lowe is asked why we should go to Mars when we've already been to the moon.

"Because it's next," he said. "Because we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire, and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next."

And none of it would be possible were it not for the constant drive to innovate that countless industries have been built on and revolutionized by.