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NASA's Curiosity rover has been steadily exploring the surface of Mars for almost a decade

This valiant rover has spent nearly a decade navigating the Martian landscape, venturing through the vast, red desert-like surroundings

NASA's Curiosity rover has been steadily exploring the surface of Mars for almost a decade
Cover Image Source: Self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Mojave" site combining dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover's robotic arm—Getty I NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In case you haven't been reminded enough, it's 2023 and our curiosity has not only reached Mars but has also been staying there for some time. Right when the rumors of the world ending spread in 2012, the Curiosity rover was introduced to a new red world. Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-tall hill, rises from the core of the 3.5-billion-year-old Gale crater. NASA's Curiosity rover has been investigating Gale Crater's 3-mile-high Mt. Sharp since its landing on Mars in August 2012. For almost a decade, she has been wandering through the red desert countryside. The rover left her landing spot in September 2014 to ascend the peak known technically as Aeolis Mons, according to My Modern Met.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this 360-degree selfie using the Mars Hand Lens Imager at the end of its robotic arm. The selfie comprises 81 individual images taken on Nov. 20, 2021. Image 
Source: NASA
Image Source: NASA |JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Climbing presents a number of technical challenges. Large pebbles and dusty sand are risks and driving in Gale Crater has been difficult. In 2013, holes and punctures were discovered in the robot's aluminum wheels, which have a skin half the thickness of a dime. While sharing an update in 2016, the mission team saw no evidence of any broken grousers. According to NASA officials, the rover should be able to reach three key sites that Curiosity team members have been targeting for quite some time: an area rich in hematite, an iron-oxide mineral; a rock unit located further on that hosts a lot of clay minerals and another rock site beyond that contains sulfates, reports Space.com.



 

Every day, researchers must monitor the environment around the rover for potential traps and risks that could confuse the precious vehicle, as per NASA Space Flight. These researchers communicate their problems and wishes to a group of "drivers" who don't use a joystick or controls at all, but instead code instructions for the robot to follow each day. Even without these instructions, if the rover detects something dangerous, it promptly shuts down.



 

This shutting down is referred to as a "fault." The challenging topography of the mountain was riddled with faults, making detours at times necessary. The Jau region has been explored by the rover – many of the craters in this area were formed by fragmented asteroid strikes; scientists are interested in learning more about these. Curiosity can learn more about her surroundings by using her drill or robotic arm, which is equipped with a camera, and then transmitting all of her data to Earth.



 

In 2019, she took a photo while staring up at the mountain. The Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured Mount Sharp in the morning illumination in October 2019, the mission's 2,555th Martian day. The panorama is made up of 44 distinct pictures that have been stitched together. Curiosity moves at an average speed of 98 feet per hour, so even getting this far up the mountain is a tremendous trek. Astronomers have been blown away by Curiosity's photos and data.



 

Curiosity, despite her age, continues to ascend the mountain in search of new findings and breathtaking views. According to NASA's update from 2022, the rover has ascended more than 2,000 feet (612 meters), encountering progressively younger rocks that provide a record of how Mars had supported microbial life in the past and changed from a wet, habitable world to a freezing desert environment. The rover has since acquired 494,540 images, returned 3,102 gigabytes of data to Earth, drilled 35 samples and scooped six. Its findings have so far yielded 883 science papers.



 

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