On August 6, 2012, Mars rover Curiosity landed on the red planet, in a site called Gale Crater. The event was cause for immediate celebration for those who had worked for years to send the rover to Mars, but researchers soon settled in for the long process of testing the rover and using it to explore the planet.
Curiosity is now coming up on its one-year (one Earth year, anyway) anniversary, and NASA is taking a look back at what was quite an eventful year for the rover. The agency is now touting several statistics and milestones achieved by the rover, such as the 190 gigabits (23.75 gigabytes) of data that Curiosity has sent back from Mars and the 75,000 laser shots it has sent toward 2,000 different science targets to determine their composition. The rover has also sent more than 70,000 images of Mars back to Earth, including photos of its first scoop of Martian soil and the first use of its hammering drill
“Successes of our Curiosity – that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then – advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars,” said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator. “Wheel tracks now, will lead to boot prints later.”
Bolden was referring to the goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s, which President Obama has tasked NASA with achieving.
The Curiosity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will be holding a live celebration event next Tuesday, August 6. The event will air on NASA Television and live-stream from the NASA website from 7:45 to 9:00 am PDT, with researchers sharing their memories of the rover’s first year on Mars.
Having completed its primary mission goal of determining that Mars’ environment could have one supported life, Curiosity is now on a months-long five-mile journey to Mount Sharp. Mount Sharp is a three-mile high mountain in the middle of Gale Crater. The rover recently passed its one-kilometer-driven milestone and is now setting driving distance records along its journey.