NASA is celebrating a milestone for the Curiosity Rover that’s been on the surface of the Red Planet since August 6, 2012. Curiosity has now spent 3000 Martian days, or sols, exploring Mars. Curiosity has been rolling up Mount Sharp, which is a three-mile-tall mountain it has been exploring since 2014.
Scientists on the mission program discovered something interesting in recent photos sent back to Earth from the rover in the form of bench-like rock formations. The image seen above is part of a panorama taken by Curiosity that is the result of 122 images being stitched together that were all taken on November 18, 2020. November 18 was the 2946th sol.
NASA says the bench-like rock formations occur as soft layers erode from harder rock layers on a slope. They can also form during a landside if large curve slabs of bedrock slide downhill. Similar rock formations had been observed in Gale Crater in the past, but the formation seen in the latest image are certainly in a more scenic setting.
NASA’s science team is attempting to learn how the rock formations formed and what they could mean for the Martian environment. However, the rover didn’t stay put long. Soon after it put together the panorama, it continued up the mountain. Curiosity is heading towards the next major layer of rock it will study, known as “the sulfate-bearing unit.”
Curiosity has already put some milestones behind it during 2021, having driven across a clay-bearing region called “Glen Torridon.” It also stopped briefly at a location called “Mary Anning.” Martian days are slightly longer than Earth days, with the day on Mars lasting the equivalent of one day and 37 minutes here on Earth.