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NASA Curiosity Rover Celebrates Its Ninth Year on Mars Today

On August 5th, 2012, at 10:32 p.m. PDT, NASA's Curiosity rover was touching the dusty red ground on Mars. Designed to determine if our neighbor can sustain microbial life, the rover has achieved a series of milestones throughout its journey on the Red Planet.
Curiosity took a selfie atop of Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars 6 photos
NASA Curiosity rover on MarsNASA Curiosity snaps picture of Mars terrainNASA Curiosity rover sned postcard from atop of Mont Mercou on MarsNASA Curiosity rover spots iridescent ice clouds on MarsNASA Curiosity rover on Mars
As part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26th, 2011. After a 560 million km (350 million miles) journey, the car-sized rover successfully landed on Aeolis Palus inside the Gale crater on Mars. That kickstarted NASA's mission aimed at studying the planet's habitability in preparation for human exploration.

Initially, Curiosity was expected to spend two years investigating the Martian climate and geology, as well as determining whether the site inside Gale has ever provided suitable conditions for microbial life. But, in December 2012, the rover's mission was extended indefinitely.

Still operational and in good shape (apart from its worn wheels), Curiosity has been active on Mars for almost a decade. During this time, we've been blessed with dozens of high-definition images taken with its MastCam system, and we were able to gaze at different rock structures and intricate formations the rover found on the Red Planet.

Using its digging instrument onboard, it collected samples from the alien ground and analyzed them, even finding evidence that pointed towards signs of ancient microbial life. By examining different rocks, Curiosity found organic salts on Mars.

The rover didn't only study the soil but also looked up and captured some of the most stunning ice clouds. The light illuminated the frozen vapors located 19 miles (31 kilometers) above the surface, making them look like pastel-colored formations.

In the main picture (click to enlarge), which was taken in 2018, Curiosity sits atop Vera Rubin Ridge, a region located at the base of Mount Sharp with a distinct texture and topography. The rover had been investigating this area over the years. Behind the machine is a clay-rich slope which Curiosity will begin exploring the upcoming week. We're patiently waiting to see what the rover will discover this time...

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