Curiosity Rover Spies Sand Dunes on Mars & Ancient Freshwater Deposits (Photos)

The Curiosity rover’s first five years on Mars have been full of drama and scientific accomplishment. Within months of its hair-raising landing inside the huge Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, Curiosity had found evidence of an ancient Martian lake that may have been hospitable to microbial life billions of years ago — a discovery that fulfilled the rover’s major goal of determining whether or not the Red Planet has ever been habitable. The six-wheeled robot then began making its way toward the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) to study the layers in the mountain and track the area’s geologic history.

While the mission has been full of successes, Curiosity has had some trouble with its wheels. Initially, the wheels were deteriorating faster than expected on the tough Martian terrain, but NASA modified the rover’s driving style, taking it along gentler routes. This has slowed the damage, though wheel wear continues. The rover team is also troubleshooting an issue with Curiosity’s drill , which has not been used since December 2016.

In the last few months, Curiosity has moved on to a new ridge on Mount Sharp and is trying to learn more about the environment there. The next few slides show the rover’s journey around this feature, which mission scientists have dubbed Vera Rubin Ridge.

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Space, astronomy and science