Today, June 24th, NASA’s planetary rover Curiosity has been off-roading on Mars for a full Martian year—687 Earth days. To celebrate, the rover’s team released this composite selfie of the intrepid robot, stitched together only a few days ago.
Curiosity used the camera on the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait. Click here for an incredibly hi-res version of the photo. Remember, that is freakin’ Mars.
Curiosity has been through a lot in its first planetary year. After landing in August 2012, it began a scientific journey that has now crossed 4.9 miles (7.9 kilometers) of the Martian surface. The first big discovery came when Curiosity conducted a look for life in an ancient lakebed shortly after making it to an area called Yellowknife Bay. Curiosity confirmed the caked earth had the basic ingredients for life when it drilled into the red dirt and found the chemical elements crucial for life (at least as we know it).
Curiosity has also studied the radiation levels present on its journey to Mars and present while on Mars, both of which will inform a human mission in the future and our study of ancient Martian habitats.
The rover has come far, but its journey isn’t over. Below you can see the planned route for Curiosity, which will take the robot towards the northern flank of Mount Sharp, another 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) away:
This map shows in red the route driven by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from the “Bradbury Landing” location where it landed in August 2012 (blue star at upper right) to nearly the completion of its first Martian year. The white line shows the planned route ahead.
“At Mount Sharp, the mission team will seek evidence not only of habitability, but also of how environments evolved and what conditions favored preservation of clues to whether life existed there,” NASA stated in a press release.
If Curiosity does find more substantial evidence of life living or once lived on Mars at Mount Sharp, I expect a much bigger status update than a selfie… maybe an Instagram video?