NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, currently in its fourth extended mission, has completed 4,000 sols (Martian days) on the Red Planet. Despite wear and tear from its 11-year-long journey on the planet, the robotic explorer is still going strong and is busy conducting exciting science.
Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011, and landed on Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012, to find out whether ancient Mars had the conditions to support microbial life.
The rover is equipped with a Mast Camera or Mastcam – a two-instrument suite that takes panoramic color images of the Martian surface and atmospheric features and the terrain ahead of the rover. However, the left camera of the Mast Camera instrument has been facing an issue since September 19 – its filter wheel is stuck between filter positions, affecting the mission images. The mission engineers are currently working to bring back the filter wheel toward its standard setting.
Additionally, engineers are closely monitoring the performance of the rover’s nuclear power source and expect it to provide enough energy to operate for many more years.
Meanwhile, NASA is preparing for a break of several weeks this month as the planet is about to disappear behind the Sun, a phenomenon called solar conjunction. The solar plasma can interact with radio waves, potentially interfering with commands during this time. The rover is on a to-do list from November 6 to 28, following which period communications can safely resume, the agency said on Monday.
4,000 glorious sols
When I landed on Mars in 2012, I set off to find out if the planet was habitable to ancient microscopic life. After completing my prime mission in 2014, I’m still going strong at 4,000 sols on the Red Planet!
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) November 6, 2023
NASA’s Curiosity has been gradually ascending the base of Mount Sharp, whose layers formed in different periods of Martian history and offer a record of how the planet’s climate evolved over time.