Curiosity, the rover that’s been exploring the planet Mars since it touched down on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, just celebrated its 3,000th day on Mars on January 12, 2021.
It’s important to note that those are Martian days we’re talking about, which are known as sols and last 24 hours and 40 minutes. The Mars Exploration Rover has spent that time admirably cruising around and investigating Martian climate and geology, in part to determine if Mars is habitable or if it ever was in the past. In December 2012, Curiosity’s mission was extended indefinitely, so we’re likely to get quite a few more sols out of this bad boy before it finally retires.
In its time on Mars, Curiosity has traveled 14.87 miles and has provided detailed images that you can explore on NASA’s website. It also features a ton of technologies onboard that have potential outside of space travel. The Chemical and Mineralogy instrument, or CheMin, for example, is designed to perform a chemical analysis of powdered rock to determine the types and amounts of minerals that are present. But it also serves a purpose at the Getty Conservation Institute: it can date and evaluate works of art without causing them physical damage.
Soon, Curiosity will be joined by the Perseverance rover, which launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 30, 2020 and is scheduled to touch down on Mars in about five weeks, on February 18. Again, the purpose of that mission is to evaluate the composition of Mars in order to determine if it can be habitable. About 85 percent of the new rover is based on heritage hardware, since previous rovers have been so successful. The big change here is that Perseverance will have more, higher quality cameras to provide more detailed images. It is also designed to take rock samples back to Earth.