NASAjust celebrated a big stage – 3000 days on the surface of Mars. To mark the occasion, the space agency has released a stunning new panorama of the red planet taken by the rover.
Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. However, scientists are tracking its activity on Martian days, called “ashes”, which are slightly longer than Earth’s days, at 24 hours and 39 minutes.
The epic new panorama, released by the space agency on Tuesday, captures views of the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater and part of Mount Sharpe, its central mountain. It is taken from the eyes of Curiosity, AKA mast camera.
Curiosity gradually climbs and explores the 3-mile-high Sharpe Peak from 2014. His latest find in the panorama is a series of characteristic “bench-like rock formations” that can also form due to erosion such as landslides.
The rock layers of the mountain were formed by water bodies billions of years ago. “The Curiosity team has seen benches in Gale Crater before, but rarely has it formed such a picturesque group of steps,” NASA said.
“Our research team is excited to find out how they formed and what they mean for the ancient environment in Gale,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashvin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The panorama is actually a composite of 122 images taken by Curiosity on November 18th. Once done, the rover continued to ascend, making its way to the next major layer, called the “sulfate-bearing unit.”
Since its mission began, Curiosity has been looking for conditions that may have once supported life by collecting rock samples for analysis along the way.
He has a number of major achievements, including finding evidence that the planet once had stable liquid water, discovering that the planet was once suitable for life, and finding organic carbon molecules, the building blocks of life. He also found methane present and active in the red planet’s atmosphere, detected levels of radiation that could pose risks to human health, and concluded that Mars’ atmosphere was much thicker than it is today.
Curiosity will soon be joined by his brother or sister,when it lands on the red planet in February. Permanence is designed to return samples from Mars back to Earth, marking the first mission to return to another planet.