NASA’s Curiosity rover recently completed 2,000 martian days or sols on the red planet investigating the Gale Crater, its composition, geology and more. The rover was launched on Atlas V 541 rocket on November 26, 2011, and it made a safe landing on August 6, 2012 at Aeolis Palus after covering a distance of staggering 350 million miles. Soon after it made its landing, it started sending pictures and data about the red planet. Here are the remarkable events observed by the Curiosity in its 2,000 martian days in chronological order.
Just 15 minutes after it landed at Aeolis Palus, just 1.5 miles away from the proposed site, the Curiosity rover sent this image of Mount Sharp on the red planet. Both NASA and the Curiosity rover is dependent on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) for data transmission to and fro. The structure of the martian working day was based on the overpass of MRO around the planet. Curiosity used its Front Hazard Camera which it usually uses to detect hazards, to send its first image.
16 days after the landing, the researchers started driving the rover which came across these pebble beds. Curiosity Rover used its Mastcam to take images of this pebble bed which is four-billion-years-old formed in the Gale Crater. The closeup image shows the composition of the rocks.
On sol 182, the Curiosity took a picture of the terrain which was photographed by MRO HiRISE, however, it wasn’t too clear. After the rover reached this point, it took the image thereby settling the debate once in for all. Named as Yellowknife Bay, the region has fine-grained sand and muds which is evident that water was present in the Gate Crater Lake. The rover used its in-house spectrometers to know the composition of the sample and if it is suitable for microbial life or not.
On sol 753, the rover visited the Pahrump Hills in the Gate Crater to find the past environment of the region and found thinly layered mudstones which photographed and sent back to Earth. These layers mudstones signify that mud particles were present and it settled down from suspension within the deeper lake in the region.
On sol 980, the rover came across Mount Stimson where it shows a phenomenon called as ‘unconformity’. By definition, it signifies the fact that erosion took place over years to form a layer of land over a dried up lake thus forming a new land surface.
Fast forward to sol 1192, the rover took an image of Namib dunes at the great Bagnold dune field which was one of the first feature seen on any other planet other than Earth. Here, the scientists had to make clear choices to drive the rover over the dunes to prevent it from any potential obstacles as it would face while driving on sand dunes.
Curiosity rover continued its journey brooding in the Gate Crater when on sol 1448, it photographed The Murray Buttes using its Mastcam. These are sandstones similar to the Bagnold dune filed at the Mount Stimson. As per the details, this region showed that a layer of sandstone has been formed over unconformity which was explained above. This hits towards a humid climate on the red planet which later become drier and the wind began to dominate in the region.
Curiosity rover came across a phenomenal cloudy feature on the red planet on sol 1971 when the scientists turned its Navigational Cameras (NavCam) towards the sky. This showed the clouds moving across the sky in a zig-zag pattern.
This is one of the most interesting photos sent by the Mars Curiosity Rover of itself. Yes, it took many selfies of itself using Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) which is mainly used by scientists to detect the state of the rover as well as if it requires a change of course, etc. One of the popular selfies it sent was taken on Sol 1065 when it was at the Buckskin locality.
After completing a journey of 18.4km in the last 5 years, the rover sent a panorama image using its Mastcam. This image shows its course from Bradbury landing site to Vera Rubin Ridge which is its current location. This image was sent on the 2000th sol.
The Final showdown was captured by the rover when it pointed its Mastcam towards Earth at a distance of staggering 350 million miles away from the red planet. There is a tiny dot and that is Earth. Carl Sagan once said “That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives”.