The Martian rovers Opportunity and Spirit have represented optimism, hope, and even cuteness to millions of people dreaming about discoveries on the red planet.

How appropriate then, that the newest rover, Curiosity, should carry a sundial with sentiments and illustrations worthy of classic children's literature.

Curiosity blasted off aboard an Atlas 5 rocket on November 26th, and is currently heading for Mars with an August 2012 landing date.

In addition to the lovely illustration above, Curiosity is also carrying this sundial, with the name Mars in 16 different languages, including ancient Sumerian, Inuktitut and more around the edges:

You may remember space artist Jon Lomberg from a previous Symbiartic post, Alone in the blogiverse: where are all the space-art bloggers? . Lomberg, Carl Sagan's favourite artist and colleague has launched 5 message artifacts to Mars, with this sundial on Curiosity marking the fifth. Three others have made it, including the DVD he helped curate entitled Visions of Mars. You can read more about the sundial on Lomberg's blog, Citizen of the Galaxy.

Like the other rovers before it, maybe one day Curiosity will become the stuff of legend and storybook dreams.

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More about Jon Lomberg:

Citizen of the Galaxy blog

Galaxy Garden

Wikipedia entry about Jon

Astronomical Art: Representing Planet Earth – 10 Days of Science blog. Guest post by Jon Lomberg, a selection in The Open Laboratory 2009.

Jon also penned “The Visual Presentation of Science” in the book Carl Sagan’s Universe (Cambridge University Press)