Mar, 2021 - By WMR
NASA’s Curiosity Rover achieved this landmark merely five weeks before the space agency’s Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to touch down on Martian soil.
On 12th January 2021, the car-sized Mars rover completed 3000 days on Martian soil. One Martian day, or sol, lasts around 24 hours and 40 minutes. The Curiosity team celebrated this landmark achievement by releasing a panorama image captured by the rover on 18 November 2020. The panorama is composed of 122 images showing a series of rocks on the Mount Sharp slopes which the rover started climbing in September 2014. Project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada from NASA’s NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, mentioned in a statement that the team is looking forward to figuring out how these rock ‘benches’ were formed and what their role is in the ancient environment of the Gale Crater.
The Gale Crater is a 154 kilometers wide depression in the ground which the Curiosity rover has been exploring since its touch down in August 2012. Observations so far have indicated that the crater may have hosted a possibly habitable environment in the past which continued for millions of years. Mount Sharp is situated at the center of the crater and rises approximately 5 kilometers. For over 6 years, Curiosity has been navigating through the mountain’s foothills in search of clues related to the planet’s transition from considerably warm and wet climate to the desert that it is today.
The Perseverance rover is scheduled to touch down inside the Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021, around 3,700 kilometers from the Gale crater. Although similar to Curiosity in terms of body plan and landing, the Perseverance rover has different tasks mapped out for it. These involve looking for signs of ancient life within a 45km wide radius of its landing site among others. The Jezero crater has been home to a river and lake in the past and the rover will collect samples to bring back to Earth.