NASA Celebrates 5 Years of Curiosity With New Mars Rover Video
On August 6 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars and kicked off a new era of Martian exploration. It was NASA’s fourth rover mission to Mars over the past 20 years; previous missions successfully landed the Sojurner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers. Curiosity represented a far more difficult undertaking than its predecessors. The rover was so large, NASA had to invent a new type of rocket-braking sky crane to deploy the lander; the Martian atmosphere was too thin to successfully aerobrake a vehicle of Curiosity’s mass.
In the five years since, Curiosity has contributed critical data to our understanding of Martian weather, geology, geohistory, and the presence of water on its surface at various points in its ancient history. Thanks to Curiosity’s well-chosen landing site at Gale Crater, we now know that liquid water flowed over that area, and that the sediment deposits Curiosity has found as it climbed upward show that the pH and salt content of the water changed over time, as the crater filled, dried, and filled again.
How mineral composition has changed as Curiosity climbs.
Mineral deposits found to-date on Mars echo such findings on Earth and have provided additional hints about the planet’s distant past. To celebrate the rover’s work, NASA has released a point-of-view video showcasing five years of the rover’s planetary exploration.
The video is taken from Curiosity’s left-front hazard avoidance camera, and there’s a contextual map of the rover’s location on the Martian surface in the right-hand corner. Though it takes a bit to play out and these images aren’t as polished as the shots NASA sometimes uses for PR, they still showcase gradually shifting terrain and environments over the five years Curiosity has been in operation.
We’ve also included a slideshow of Curiosity’s activities on Mars between its 2012 landing and the present day, along with a “selfie” that was stitched together from 57 photos. (No, Curiosity can’t take snapshots of itself, much less attach them to a Tweet with a terrible Instagram-style filter.)
Curiosity has endured some battering from the Martian weather and unforgiving terrain. Its wheels have been wearing out and there’s an intermittent short in its drill arm. Initial fears that the rover might be left unable to drive last December have proven unfounded, though the drill hasn’t been used in 2017 and may be clogged with debris. Despite these issues, Curiosity is expected to remain in operation through the indefinite future, and its experiences have informed NASA’s design of its Mars 2020 rover. Best of all, it still has a partner on the Martian surface: The indefatigable Opportunity is still going strong, 4,943 days after landing.