This Week In History: August 6-12


This week in history: Curiosity Rover lands on Mars, Walden published, and The Louvre opens. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

August 6, 2012 – NASA Lands the Curiosity Rover on Mars

This artist’s concept features NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity landed near the Martian equator about 10:31 p.m., Aug. 5 PDT (1:31 a.m. Aug. 6 EDT) In this picture, the rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of the rover’s arm, which extends about 7 feet (2 meters).

Launched on November 26, 2011, the Curiosity Rover would make its landing on the surface of Mars on this day in 2012. A car-sized robot exploring the surface of Mars, Curiosity has been collecting data related to the planet’s climate and geology, as well as looking for water and assessing whether the planet’s surface could prove habitable. Curiosity has been transmitting data since its landing in 2012, and will continue to do so until 2020, at which point NASA plans to send a new rover (tentatively called Mars 2020) to collect another, different series of data; the exact nature of this rover’s mission will be contingent upon funding.

Learn more about Curiosity and other rovers sent to Mars in A Visual Guide to the Universe with the Smithsonian

August 9, 1854 – Henry David Thoreau Publishes Walden

One of the great works of American literature, Walden would be published on this day in 1854. An extended essay that reflects on the simple life, Thoreau wrote Walden after he lived in a hand-built cabin in the woods for two years two months and two days; it serves as an introspective look into the development of civilization as well as a love letter to self-sufficiency. It places great emphasis on solitude and personal contemplation, and rejects the consumerism that Thoreau felt had become the backbone of society. Though lauded today, Walden was not a bestseller during Thoreau’s lifetime and would went out of print only five years after its initial publication.

Learn more about the lasting influence of Walden in Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything

August 10, 1793 – The Musee du Louvre Opens

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Le musée du Louvre)

On this day in 1793 the Louvre, the world’s largest and most frequently visited museum, was officially opened to the public. Originally built to serve as a military fortress, the Louvre was converted into a space to display the royal collections in 1692. Following the French Revolution, the Louvre was turned into a public museum to showcase the nation’s artistic treasures. Today many major works of art hang in its halls and draw thousands of tourists every year. Its extensive collection of more than 38,000 objects includes a wide variety of sculpture from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as paintings by Jan Vermeer, Jacque-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, and of course, the infamous Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503.

Learn more about the Louvre’s in Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre