NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has just completed another milestone. Arriving on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity has already spent close to two years on the Red Planet, but Tuesday marks the one Martian year anniversary for the rover.
NASA reports on the Martian anniversary for the Rover. During its first Martian year on the Red Planet, Curiosity has already completed its primary scientific mission, fired more than 100,000 laser shots, drilled into two types of Martian rocks, is in the middle of a 5-mile trek to its next destination and, of course, took a selfie to celebrate the anniversary.
The Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012 and its primary mission was to determine if the location could have once supported life. Curiosity found its answer in a pair of mudstone rocks in Yellowknife Bay in March 2013. Drilling into the mudstones, Curiosity found evidence Mars could have supported life and Gale Crater was once an ancient lakebed.
According to NASA, other significant discoveries from Curiosity include: measuring the loss of Mars early atmosphere as well as determining the lack of methane, a biologically-produced gas, in the planet's atmosphere; and the age of a rock and how long it was exposed to radiation, which could determine when water last flowed on the planet. Most recently, Curiosity drilled into a sandstone rock named "Windjana" which yielded more magnetite, a type of mineral.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) May 6, 2014
David Blake, principal investigator for Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument from NASA’s Ames Research Center, said in a statement, "A key question is whether this magnetite is a component of the original basalt or resulted from later processes, such as would happen in water-soaked basaltic sediments. The answer is important to our understanding of habitability and the nature of the early-Mars environment."
The Windjana analysis revealed plenty of clay minerals as well as the mineral orthoclase, commonly found in the Earth's crust, notes NASA. "Windjana is still within an area where a river flowed. We see signs of a complex history of interaction between water and rock," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity Project Scientist from the California Institute of Technology.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) April 16, 2014
Curiosity's onboard cameras have also captured some incredible moments including Mercury's passage in front of the sun, a Martian solar eclipse and an asteroid. Unrelated to Curiosity's scientific mission, who could forget "Mars Rat" or the "Jelly doughnut rock."
To date, Curiosity has traveled 4.9 miles and has 2.4 miles before it reaches Mount Sharp, NASA reports. A video celebrating Curiosity's Martian year anniversary can be viewed below.