The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) rover, Curiosity, has completed 3,000 Martian days, or sols, on the red planet. Curiosity reached Mars on August 6, 2012. On the completion of this milestone, the space agency shared an official note in which it mentioned the discoveries that Curiosity has made till now.
In the note, NASA mentioned that Curiosity has made quite a few discoveries while making its gradual climb up Mount Sharp. It has been exploring the 5-kilometre-tall mountain since 2014. One of the photos that came through Curiosity left the scientists shocked as it showed a series of rock “benches” in the most recent panorama from the mission. On November 18 last year, a total of 122 photos taken by Curiosity were stitched together from the mission’s 2,946th sol. The series of stunning photographs were clicked by the Mast Camera, or Mastcam, which is considered to be the eyes of the rover.
The note mentioned that the curved rock terraces that one sees in the pictures can be formed when there are harder and softer layers of rock on a slope. Explaining how it happens, the agency said when the softer layers begin to erode, the harder layers form small cliffs. This process leaves behind some bench-like formations. These formations can also occur during a landslide.
Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist, Curiosity, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, NASA said, “Our science team is excited to figure out how they formed and what they mean for the ancient environment within Gale.”
Previously, this rover has accomplished quite a few things like finding proof that the red planet once had persistent liquid water and discovering that the planet was once suitable for life. Further, it has also found that organic carbon molecules, the building blocks of life are also available on Mars. The rover was also able to send evidence of present and active methane in Mars’ atmosphere; it has also detected radiation levels that could be risky to human health. One thing that it has made sure is that Mars’ atmosphere was much thicker in the past than what it is today.
Meanwhile, Curiosity will soon be getting some company on Mars. The space agency is going to send another rover named ‘Perseverance’ in February this year. The main aim of this rover will be to bring samples from Mars back to Earth. This mission will also be the first round-trip mission to another planet.