NASAsjust celebrated a major milestone – 3,000 days on the surface of Mars. To mark the occasion, the space agency has released a stunning new panorama of the red planet, captured by the rover.
Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. However, scientists trace its activities in March days, called “suns,” which are slightly longer than Earth’s days in 24 hours and 39 minutes.
The epic new panorama, released by the space agency on Tuesday, captures views of the 96 km wide Gale Crater and part of Mount Sharp, its central mountain. It was taken by Curiosity̵
The curiosity has gradually climbed and explored the 3 km high Mount Sharp since 2014. The latest find, captured in the panorama, is a series of characteristic “bench-like rock formations”, which can also be formed due to erosion. as a landslide.
The rock layer of the mountain was formed by bodies of water billions of years ago. “Curiosity’s team has seen benches before in Gale Crater, but rarely formed such a scenic grouping of steps,” NASA said.
“Our science team is excited to find out how they formed and what they mean for the ancient environment of Gale,” said Curiosity project researcher Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The panorama is actually a compilation of 122 photos taken by Curiosity on November 18th. After it was taken, the rover continued to higher ground and worked its way toward the next large layer, called the “sulfate-bearing unit.”
Since its mission began, Curiosity has been on the hunt for conditions that may have once supported life and collected rock samples along the way to analyze.
It has had a number of important achievements, including finding evidence that the planet once had renewable liquid water, and discovering that the planet was once suitable for life and finding organic carbon molecules, the building blocks of life. It also found present and active methane in the atmosphere of the red planet, detected radiation levels that could pose health risks to humans, and concluded that Mars’ atmosphere used to be much thicker than it is today.
Curiosity will soon be joined by its sibling rover,, when it lands on the red planet in February. Endurance is designed to bring samples from Mars back to Earth and mark the first return journey to another planet.