August 6, 2012 was a historic moment for space exploration and for the progress of mankind: it was the day the Mars rover Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars.
The Curiosity weighs about 2000 pounds and is roughly the size of a Honda Civic. One of Curiosity’s primary missions is to determine Mars’ water cycle, which will help pave the way for a manned mission to Mars. Curiosity has drills to help understand how rocks were formed. Mars was once covered in oceans – but for how long? That’s what the rover is there to find out.
One question it won’t find the answer to is what kind of watch Mars astronauts will wear on their inevitable mission to Mars. Right now, there’s OMEGA’s analog/digital hybrid watch dedicated to Mars, the OMEGA Speedmaster X-33.
The OMEGA Speedmaster X-33
The OMEGA Speedmaster X-33 is also known as the “Mars Watch”. First introduced in 1998, the Speedmaster X-33 was designed and tested over five years in cooperation with American, Russian and European astronauts, as well as professional pilots from the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the US Air Force`s Thunderbirds squadrons. The name “X-33” was originally used by Omega watchmakers as a code name during development and testing, but OMEGA kept it for the watch’s launch.
A tough titanium watch, the Speedmaster X-33 is fully “flight-qualified”—it runs at a rate of -0.3 to +0.5 seconds per day, is shock-resistant, water-resistant, and pressure resistant, AND it can withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -20 degrees to +70 degrees centigrade. As a digital/analog watch, it displays the standard hour, minutes, and seconds. But the digital display not only shows the time and date but also has a countdown function, a chronograph, and a 24-hour alarm system with a loudness of at least 80 decibels (so it can be heard inside a noisy space shuttle). The X-33’s special digital functions include mission elapsed time and universal time. In all, the OMEGA Speedmaster X-33 is an impressive astronaut’s watch that’s already been tested in the field (or space), and it would definitely qualify for NASA’s shortlist when it determines what watch to take on an eventual manned mission to Mars.
If you want to see the landing and get stuck in a rabbit hole of Curiosity-related videos, click here to check out NASA’s Youtube channel.
This article was originally published on August 6, 2012. It has been updated for clarity and new information.