As of August 5, 2017, NASA's Curiosity rover will have been cruising the landscape of Mars for five years. This US$2.5 billion-dollar mission landed the largest, and most technologically sophisticated, rover ever to roam the surface of the Red Planet. Over the course of its mission Curiosity has captured more than 200,000 images and drilled over a dozen rock samples, and it isn't done yet.
Initially, Curiosity's primary mission was scheduled to last two years (or one Martian year of 98 weeks), but the architecture of the rover has proven to be surprisingly resilient, despite some mechanical scares along the way. The rover has overcome short circuits, unexpected software glitches, and hazardous terrain while delivering a vast array of exciting insights into the history of our mysterious neighbor.
New Atlas explored the rich and varied discoveries uncovered by Curiosity in an expansive feature last year, but the last 12 months of the mission have continued to deliver new and unexpected revelations. As the rover trekked along on its road trip towards Mt Sharp it sent back some stunning images of layered rock formations and also offered us more evidence that the planet could have supported life in the past.
Driving across Mars for five years is apparently starting to take a toll on the rover though, with two of Curiosity's raised treads, called grousers, breaking early in 2017. The rover has currently traversed 10.57 miles (17 km) and mission control is now being very careful to choose routes that avoid sharp rocks. NASA is confident there is still life left in Curiosity and it is expected, at the very least, to reach its current final destination, about 3 mi (4.8 km) further away.
Over the last five years Curiosity has sent back some of the most spectacular, high-resolution images we have ever seen of Mars' surface. Celebrate this magnificent human achievement by visiting our Curiosity Rover photo gallery and revisiting some of the most amazing views captured by Curiosity over the course of its landmark mission.
Happy 5th birthday Curiosity!