Curiosity rover completes first year on Mars

View from Curiosity on sol 343 looking towards some of the foothills of Mount Sharp in the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
View from Curiosity on sol 343 looking towards some of the foothills of Mount Sharp in the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Curiosity rover has successfully finished its first full year on Mars it was announced yesterday, with already some amazing discoveries and a ton of scientific data to show for it. Late in the evening on August 5, 2012 PT (August 6, 2012 ET), Curiosity descended to the ground via the most complex landing technique ever attempted on Mars, the skycrane. Many things could have gone wrong as the car-sized rover hung from the long tethers during the nail-biting descent, but happily it turned out to be a near-perfect landing.

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Curiosity rover at Shaler rock outcrop

Front Hazcam image of Shaler on sol 313. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Front Hazcam image of Shaler on sol 313. Mount Sharp is in the background. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Curiosity is now back at the intriguing Shaler rock outcrop, after having initially passed it during its first trip into Yellowknife Bay in Gale crater. Shaler consists largely of “stepped” flat rock slabs which stand out from the surrounding rocks and soil. It’s origin isn’t known yet, but may be connected to the fact that this area was once very wet, with flowing streams and possibly a lake, according to findings so far by the rover.¬†Curiosity’s findings here should be interesting, and then the journey begins to the layered foothills, buttes and mesas of Mount Sharp!

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More of those weird ‘bubbles’ seen by Curiosity rover

"Bubble" feature from sol 309. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Cropped Mastcam image of “bubble” feature from sol 309. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

As Curiosity starts moving towards Mount Sharp again, a few more of those odd “bubble” features have been seen. The most obvious ones are oval-shaped, with raised rims, and appear to be a bit larger than some others seen previously. Like the others though, they sort of look like frothy bubbles which have “popped” and then hardened. How they formed is still a mystery which hopefully Curiosity can shed some more light on.

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