One year ago today, NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down safely on Mars. Since then it has collected 190 gigabytes of data and traveled more than a mile in its mission to understand the ancient environment of the planet. It has also sent more than 70,000 pictures back to its team on Earth. Here are the biggest milestones from Curiosity’s first year, as told by those pictures.
Curiosity starts taking pictures — August 6, 2012
Just after landing on Mars, Curiosity began taking dimly lit pictures of itself and the Martian surface. In this image, cameras captured the ghostly shadow the rover.
Evidence of flowing water — September 14, 2012
Large, rounded pebbles in and around a rock outcrop convinced scientists that this site used to be a strong flowing stream. The gravel was likely carried along by the water and deposited on the bedrock.
First soil scoops — October 7, 2012
Curiosity’s landing site, known as Gale Crater, was chosen because its soil might contain remnants of the planet’s shift from a wet to dry environment. The rover scooped up its first soil samples on October 7 and then snapped this self portrait on October 31. The scoop sites are visible on the left side next to Curiosity.
Later analysis of the soil collected revealed the ingredients for water and carbon, though it is not yet clear if the carbon was natural or contamination from the equipment.
On to Mount Sharp — July 4
Curiosity is now on its longest trek yet as it spends several months traveling five miles to Mount Sharp, pictured below in a photograph taken August 23, 2012. On July 8, it looked back on its progress since it left the Glenelg area, where it spent the first half of 2013.
Curiosity travels 1 kilometer — July 16, 2013
A couple weeks shy of its one year anniversary on Mars, Curiosity traveled its 1,000th meter. The rover has been moving from its original landing site slowly because each data collection site can require days or weeks of work. If the continued operation of NASA’s past Mars rovers is any indication, Curiosity will be traveling across the Martian surface for many more years to come.
Images courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory