NASA‘s Curiosity rover surpassed its 2000th day (sol) on Mars this week. It’s been on the Red Planet since August of 2012. The rover has gone 11.6 miles on its mission to explore Mars, and it’s still going strong!
To celebrate the occasion, NASA released a new panoramic image (above) of the vista Curiosity was looking at in January of this year. As it hit its 2000th day, Curiosity was climbing the 3-mile high Mount Sharp. The image that was released on March 22nd shows Mount Sharp in the distance. It also highlights Curiosity’s next area of study: “an area scientists have studied from orbit and have determined contains clay minerals.” according to space.com.
What’s the big deal about finding clay minerals on Mars? Well, apparently clay minerals don’t form without water. Curiosity has already found “evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment” that scientists say could have supported microbial life. So, in essence, Curiosity’s initial mission has been successful: to determine if the surface of Mars could have ever supported primitive life. The answer is yes. But, this new clay mineral deposit could give even more clues as to what that might have looked like.
Curiosity continues its mission on Mars. Keep looking up.