Earlier this year, NASA was forced to finally say goodbye to the trust Opportunity rover. It was a sad time for the space agency since the rover had exceeded expectations in every imaginable way, but thankfully it’s not the only rover on the Red Planet. Curiosity, which was launched back in 2011, is still alive and well, and today marks its seventh year of an already impressive campaign.
The rover spent months cruising through space before eventually plummeting to the surface of Mars where it safely landed on August 6th, 2012, and it’s been revealing countless Mars secrets ever since.
Never one to ignore an opportunity to celebrate, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are taking a look back on the rover’s incredible life today, and doing their best to get us hyped for the future.
In a new blog post, NASA’s JPL offers a glimpse at where Curiosity is now and what it’s up to. The rover is currently exploring parts of the Gale Crater in a spot known as the “clay-bearing unit,” where it is using its drills to gather samples of the Martian soil where water once flowed. The resulting clay is now teaching scientists what conditions were like within the crater and hinting at what Mars was like long ago.
JPL also published a timely 360-degree video showing what Curiosity can currently see from its location within the crater. The images were captured back in June, and show the rocky outcropping known as “Teal Ridge.”
Scientists know that Mars was once a much wetter place than it is today, but whether all that moisture was supporting life on the Red Planet is still anyone’s guess. Samples gathered by Curiosity have shown that the soil may have been suitable for microbial life, but scientists can’t say for certain whether any bacteria or microscopic life was (or still is) present on the planet.
NASA says Curiosity’s nuclear power source still has plenty of juice for the rover to continue working well into the future, so we can expect plenty of additional discoveries while we wait for the eventual launch of the Mars 2020 rover mission.