The NASA Rover landed eight years ago on August 5, 2012, and will soon be joined by a second Rover, Perseverance.
The curiosity of NASA Mars Rover has seen a lot since August 5, 2012, when he first put his wheels inside the 96-mile (154-kilometer-wide) basin of the Gale crater. His mission: to study if Mars had the water, the chemical bricks and the energy sources that could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.
Since then, curiosity has spanned more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and collecting six soil samples along the way, revealing that ancient Mars was truly fit for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rocky layers is helping scientists understand how the Martian climate has changed over time, losing its lakes and streams to becoming the cold desert it is today.
The Curiosity mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is operated by Caltech in Pasadena, California, and involves nearly 500 scientists from the United States and other countries around the world. Here are eight postcards that the rover sent from Mars. Most of the views were taken from the rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, led by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.
A dusty scientist
Curiosity took this selfie on June 20, 2018 (Sol 2082) as a global dust storm enveloped Mars, filtering the sunlight and obscuring the view. The rover pierces stones to analyze their composition and then takes a selfie to capture the landscape from which each sample was taken (this is called “Duluth”). Selfies are created by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. If you’re wondering why you can’t see the arm in this photo, read more about how selfies are taken here.
Mount the sharp towers above
Look up from Curiosity’s current position and you’ll find yourself with this spectacular view of Mount Sharp, the 3 mile high (5 km high) peak that Curiosity is exploring. Composed of 44 single images stitched together, this portrait was made by Mastcam on 13 October 2019 (Sol 2555).
Curiosity will never venture into the top of the mountain; instead, it is exploring the many levels found below. Everyone has a different story to tell about how Mars, which was once again like Earth (warmer and wetter), has changed over time. The rover will reach the next level by the end of the year.
“I love this image because it tells two stories: one on the mission and one on Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, scientist of the Curiosity project at JPL. “The crater rim and the floor we started eight years ago peep out from the left, while ours is the future as Curiosity climbs higher up the mountain.”
You are here
Filmed near the base of Mount Sharp on March 24, 2014 (Sol 580), this panorama shows how far Curiosity has traveled in just over six years. The arrow today indicates the location of the rover, approximately 3 1/2 miles away (approximately 5 1/2 kilometers).
“I can’t help but think about the corresponding distance we’ve traveled in our understanding of Mars’ habitable past since we took this picture,” said Abigail Fraeman of JPL, deputy scientist for the Curiosity project.
Curiosity Project scientist Ashwin Vasavada offers a descriptive tour of the vision of the rover on Mars in the Gale crater. The white-balanced scene traces the journey so far.
You were there
“I still don’t understand how incredibly clear the skies are when we took this, and how we could see for miles and miles and miles,” said Fraeman of this 2018 panorama, which shows the bottom of Gale crater seen from above up the mountain, in a place called Vera Rubin Ridge. “How spectacular would the edge of the Gale crater look at an astronaut if they were on Mount Sharp that day?”
Vasavada narrated this video tour of the trip up the mountain.
Western Martian spaghetti
Parts of the Martian desert resemble the American Southwest. This wide panorama, created by Mastcam on December 19, 2019 (Sol 2620), includes 130 images stitched together. In the foreground on the right is “Western Butte”; the slope with a crispy cap in the background is the “Greenheugh Gable”, which Curiosity climbed in March 2020 for a peek of the terrain that scientists hope to investigate later on in the mission.
A sea of dunes
This position, part of “Namib Dune”, shows two ripples of different sizes that the wind has carved into the sand. Curiosity has discovered that the largest type, which is located about 3 meters away, is found on Mars only because of its subtle atmosphere. The panorama was taken on December 13, 2015 (Sol 1192).
Staring at the clouds
Curiosity occasionally studies the clouds to learn more about the Martian atmosphere. There is very little water in the Martian air, which is 1% denser than the Earth’s air, but sometimes water ice clouds form. The clouds shown here, which are probably water ice, were captured approximately 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the surface on May 17, 2019 (Sol 2410), using the rover’s black and white navigation cameras.
Hole Story by Curiosity
These 26 holes represent each of the pulverized rock specimens that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover collected with its robotic arm in early July 2020. A map in the upper left corner shows where holes were drilled on the rover’s course, together where he collected six soil samples for analysis.