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24 Jun, 2014 17:30

Curiosity rover marks its first Martian year with selfie

Curiosity rover marks its first Martian year with selfie

The Curiosity rover has taken a selfie to commemorate the completion of its first Martian year. NASA’s research robot landed on the Red Planet 687 Earth days ago.

Curiosity arrived on Mars on August 5, 2012. Its mission was to find out whether the planet’s environment has ever offered conditions to support life.

In order to take a selfie, the rover extends its robotic arm in front of itself and turns the camera inward. Curiosity shoots several pictures of itself and combines them in a montage, in which its robotic arm isn’t seen.

It’s not the first selfie taken by the rover as it has taken pictures of itself on many occasions during its journey.

.@MarsCuriosity marks its first full Martian year (687 Earth days) with success: http://t.co/RAQDMRR83s Selfie: pic.twitter.com/h1w5G7Pcms

— NASA (@NASA) June 23, 2014

The rover accomplished a number of groundbreaking discoveries during the first Martian year of its mission.

It took Curiosity just several weeks to succeed in its primary objective of proving that there might once have been life on Mars.

The robot drilled into the Martian Gale Crater in the Yellowknife region and discovered a former lakebed, which, according to NASA, contained “essential elemental ingredients for life.”

Despite Curiosity completing its task, the scientists decided to continue exploring the Martian surface while the rover remains operational.

Its journey is likely to end when its six aluminum wheels, which have already suffered a number of dents and punctures, break down rendering the rover non-mobile.

Curiosity made a pause in its movements in spring to collect sandstone samples in Windjana, an area southwest of its original landing site, where the anniversary selfie was made.

But it is now continuing its journey, with the mission team adjusting routes and driving methods to reduce the rate of damage to Curiosity’s wheels.

"We are getting in some long drives using what we have learned,” Jim Erickson, Curiosity Project Manager, told NASA’s website. “When you're exploring another planet, you expect surprises. The sharp, embedded rocks were a bad surprise. Yellowknife Bay was a good surprise.”

NASA hopes that the robot will eventually be able to reach its final destination – 5.5 kilometer tall Mount Sharp.

The scientists believe that the analysis of data, received as the robot climbs the mountain, will help them understand how and why the atmosphere on Mars switched from warm and wet to cold and dry.