Thrilling Martian Postcards to Celebrate NASA Curiosity Mars Rover’s Anniversary

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since August 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

The Curiosity mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, and involves almost 500 scientists from the United States and other countries around the world. Here are eight postcards the rover has sent from Mars. Most of the panoramas were taken by the rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, led by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.

A self-portrait by NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater. A drill hole can be seen in the rock to the left of the rover at a target site called “Duluth.” Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity took this selfie on June 20, 2018 (Sol 2082) as a global dust storm enshrouded Mars, filtering sunlight and obscuring the view. The rover drills rocks to analyze their composition and takes a selfie afterward to capture the landscape each sample was taken from (this one is called “Duluth”). Selfies are created by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm. If you’re wondering why you can’t see the arm in this photo, read more about how selfies are taken here.

The Mast Camera, or Mastcam, on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its telephoto lens to capture Mount Sharp in the morning illumination on Oct. 13, 2019, the 2,555th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The panorama is composed of 44 individual images stitched together. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS