NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Celebrates 2,000th Martian Day
It’s been a big year for NASA’s Curiosity Rover. After the Mars-exploring robot made an extremely millennial comeback in January, it proceeded to discover some peculiarly-shaped crystals and it even repaired its broken down drill.
Amid all of this winning, Curiosity managed to hit another milestone: its two-thousandth Martian day, or sol, on the red planet. Days on Mars are roughly 25 hours, which means Curiosity has been cruising around our planetary neighbor for a whopping 50,000 hours.
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Since 2014, Curiosity has been steadily climbing Mount Sharp, the central peak of the massive Gale Crater that is believed to be a dried up lake. To commemorate how long it’s been on the red planet, the rover snapped a picture of its next big undertaking, the patch of land that is highlighted below.
This swath of Martian soil contains clay minerals, which require water to form. Scientists have already figured out that lower levels of Mount Sharp formed underwater back when Gale Crater was a vast Martian lake. Nonetheless, exploring this new section of the crater could give scientists insights on how long water may have persisted and if this area was once suitable for life.
With the rover’s newly repaired drill, it can now dig up and analyze samples from this arid lake. The $2.5 billion robot has an onboard chemistry laboratory that it uses to reveal the contents of the rocks it finds. It then beams its findings to NASA researchers back here on Earth.
Scientists and those of us who hope to one day live on Mars will be eagerly awaiting to see what Curiosity finds on this patch of Martian real estate.