Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity rover has been on the prowl at Gale Crater since landing on Mars in August of 2012, touching down on the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT).

Ten (Earth) years later, the Mars machinery continues its mission of exploration, notes Scott VanBommel, a planetary scientist at Washington University.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“As we the science and engineering teams have aged this last decade, so has Curiosity,” VanBommel adds. The toll of ten years and nearly 18 miles (28.5 kilometers) of Mars driving shows with every Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) wheel imaging activity, with less energy available for a plan, and with aging mechanisms.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This is the life of a Mars rover. Spirit and Opportunity were no different, yet they persisted and paved the way scientifically and technologically for the rovers of today. Curiosity has made numerous scientific discoveries during these ten years, emphasized by the over 500 science team publications, with many more ahead as we continue our ascent and exploration of Gale crater and Mount Sharp,” VanBommel reports. “I look forward to the next ten years.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3553, August 4, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

SAM: top 5 discoveries

Science writer, Nick Oakes of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, took at look at Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

SAM’s top 5 discoveries aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover at Mars:

Detection of Organic Compounds on Mars; Methane Variability; Rock Formation and Exposure Age in Gale Crater; Honing in on the History of Water on Mars; and Biologically Useful Nitrogen

“No finding from SAM or Curiosity’s other instruments can offer proof-positive for past life on Mars – but importantly, these discoveries don’t rule it out, Oakes writes. “Earlier this year, NASA extended Curiosity’s mission at least into 2025, allowing the rover and its mobile SAM chemistry lab to stay focused on the tantalizing matter of Mars’ habitability.”

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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