If you think seven years on Earth can age you, wait till you see what being in the dry, desolate and harsh environment of Mars can do.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been roaming the Martian surface for more than seven years now, and all that work has taken a toll on its once shiny, metallic body.
The robot is fond of taking ‘selfies’ during its breaks from exploring Mars, and a side-by-side comparison of an image it snapped shortly after it landed on the red planet and one the robot took recently highlights its shocking transformation.
The photos were posted on the image sharing website Imgur on Sunday before it landed on the space community board on Reddit, climbing up the ranks with more than 70,000 upvotes.
Curiosity was launched into space in November, 2011 and landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. It followed in the tracks of its predecessors Sojourner, Opportunity, and Spirit, and will soon be followed by the Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to make its journey in July.
The car-sized robot was sent out on a two-year mission to find out whether Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support life during its early history. But more than seven years later, and the rover is still roaming the Martian surface looking for clues and collecting evidence.
In one of its latest communications with Earth, the Curiosity rover snapped an image of itself on Mars on October 11, 2019. The robot uses a camera placed at the end of its arm called the Mars Hand Lens Imager to take several pictures that are stitched together into a panorama featuring the Martian surface in the background.
While it still appears just as adorable, the Curiosity rover has clearly endured the harsh Martian weather and dry surface which has left it looking a little run down. Curiosity has had to navigate through Mars' rocky surface, with dried up lake beds, craters and volcanoes. The red planet is also covered in red dust, which is often blown by rough Martian winds into tornado-like dust storms that are sometimes so large they can be seen from Earth, according to NASA.
Performing way past its intended mission timeline has not been easy for the little rover. Just recently, the robot suffered a slight malfunction that left it unaware of its location on the red planet.
Curiosity was carrying out commands delivered from the NASA headquarters on Earth when the data of its orientation didn’t add up in its memory, so the robot froze in its place until it shortly recovered.
But the robot should not be discouraged by its deteriorating looks or fading memory, it has accomplished a lot during its long mission.
Since it landed on Mars in 2012, Curiosity has been roaming the Gale Crater and discovered a lake that may have contained water billions of years ago and an environment that could have possibly supported microbial life.
Curiosity will soon be joined by the shinier 2020 rover, which is on a mission to look for clues of past life on Mars and pave the way for the first human-led mission to the red planet within the next decade.