Curiosity Rover Celebrates Its 2000th Martian Day on the Red Planet
And it's been trucking along for quite a while now, as Curiosity just celebrated its 2,000th sol on Mars. A sol is full Martian day which lasts about 1 Earth day plus an additional 37 minutes, so it's technically passed its 2000th day on Mars as we know a "day" to be, but using Earth measurements doesn't make much sense for something on a completely different planet.
The point is, for the last 2,000 times that Mars has completed a full rotation, Curiosity has been there looking around. While there's not really an official celebration for this sort of thing, NASA did release a recent mosaic of several Curiosity photos, showing a panorama of the rover's next destination:
Looks like we made it: 2,000 sols on Mars, you guys!— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) March 22, 2018
I'm looking back on 2,000 Martian days of exploration, and literally looking forward to climbing higher in those to come. The area ahead contains clays I'm eager to investigate: https://t.co/Uk8dCF0tYV pic.twitter.com/qiUxFsL43F
Shown above, the mosaic contains a looming field that Curiosity is on track to go explore. The field appears to be a dried up lakebed from a distant time when Mars likely contained prominent water; that hypothesis is based on the fact that the field appears to have deposits of clay, which need water to form. So Curiosity is going to take a closer look.
And in the background of the mosaic, you can see Mount Sharp, where Curiosity has been exploring since 2014. That's taken up the bulk of its journey so far, having landed on Mars back in 2012 and traveled 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) since then.
So while Curiosity isn't the oldest active rover on Mars (that would be the Opportunity rover) and soon it won't be the newest either (the more advanced Mars 2020 rover will launch in a couple years), it's still an invaluable tool for exploring the Martian surface.
And so long as it keeps taking pictures of red Martian landscapes and weird Martian tube shapes, it'll continue to be one of the most fascinating offworld objects that we know of.