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Two Years Ago, Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars, Captures Image of Mount Sharp

This image was captured by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shortly after it landed on the Red Planet on the evening of Aug. 5, 2012 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT), near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. The image shows the rover's main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is Mount Sharp, whose peak is 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) high, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The actual summit is not visible from this vantage point -- the highest elevation seen in this view is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the rover.

On June 24, 2014, Curiosity completed one Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- having accomplished the mission's main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. One of Curiosity's first major findings after landing in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic "yes," came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech

Page Last Updated: August 5th, 2014
Page Editor: Sarah Loff