NASA’s Curiosity rover first landed on Mars 10 years ago on August 5, 2012. Since then, it has continued to unlock secrets of the Red Planet as it explores the Gale Crater.
To celebrate the occasion, NASA shared selfies taken using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm. The 360-degree selfie comprises 81 individual images from November 2021 — the 3,303rd Martian day of the mission.
The rock structure behind the rover is Greenheugh Pediment and the hill in the middle distance on the right is Rafael Navarro Mountain. The U-shaped opening behind the rover’s left is the Maria Gordon Notch.
“Today marks 10 years since the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Since August 2012, Curiosity has been exploring 3-mile-high Mt. Sharp in Gale Crater. The rover has climbed more than 2,000 feet (612 meters), reaching progressively younger rocks that serve as a record on how Mars has evolved from a wet, habitable planet to a cold desert environment,” NASA said in a statement.
The rover has travelled over 28.1 km since landing on Mars and made multiple scientific discoveries. It is now in the process of exploring Mount Sharp, the 5.5-km-high mountain in the centre of Gale Crater.
The Curiosity journey began on November 26, 2011, when NASA launched it aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Once it reached an initial parking orbit of 165 × 324 km, the Centaur upper stage fired one last time to put the vehicle on a course for Mars.
The vehicle spent over eight months coasting through deep space and performed four trajectory corrections to fine-tune its trajectory. During this time, the rover was encapsulated inside an aeroshell attached to the cruise stage.
As the vehicle entered the atmosphere of Mars, the aeroshell began to fire thrusters to keep the vehicle on course toward its landing site. During entry, temperatures reached upwards of (871°C during peak heating.
Once it was safely through atmospheric entry, the vehicle deployed a parachute to slow further. At the time, this parachute was the largest supersonic parachute flown, opening up to a diameter of 51 ft.
After descending, the rover separated from the aeroshell and continued to descend using its rocket-powered skycrane. The skycrane then used cables to lower the rover down the last few metres onto the surface to prevent debris from getting kicked.