Mars astronauts

July 9, 2016
File:VSE Mars astronauts with

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took this January 19, 2016, selfie while sitting at "Namib Dune." The rover was scooping up sand from the dune to analyze. The photo combines 57 images taken during the rover's 1, 228th Martian day, or Sol. The photos were taken at the end of the rover's robotic arm.

Mars rover Curiosity

The rover drilled this dime-sized hole to collect a sample from a rock called "Buckskin" on July 30.

This April 10 view from the navigation camera on Curiosity shows the terrain ahead of the rover as it makes its way west through a valley called "Artist's Drive."

The Mars rover Curiosity does a test drill on a rock dubbed "Bonanza King" to determine whether it would be a good place to dig deeper and take a sample. But after the rock shifted, the test was stopped.

Curiosity used the equivalent of a dust broom to sweep away reddish oxidized dust from the Bonanza King rock. The rover's team decided to ditch the site and drive Curiosity toward other destinations.

Wheel tracks from Curiosity are seen on the sandy floor of a lowland area dubbed "Hidden Valley" in this image taken August 4.

The rover recently encountered this iron meteorite, which NASA named Lebanon. This find is similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers.

Curiosity took this nighttime photo of a hole it drilled May 5 to collect soil samples. NASA said this image combines eight exposures taken after dark on May 13.

An arm of Curiosity drills two holes into sandstone on May 5. The rock powder collected will be analyzed by the rover's onboard instruments.

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon, taken by Curiosity, includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth. A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright "evening stars."

This mosaic of images from the Navigation Camera on Curiosity shows the terrain to the west from the rover's position on the 528th Martian day, or sol, of the mission on January 30. The images were taken right after Curiosity had arrived at the eastern edge of a location called "Dingo Gap."

An illustration depicts the possible extent of an ancient lake inside Gale Crater, where the rover landed in August 2012. The $2.5 billion NASA mission set out to explore Gale Crater, which was thought to have once hosted flowing water. Curiosity found evidence of clay formations, or "mudstone, " in the crater's Yellowknife Bay, scientists said in 2013. This clay may have held the key ingredients for life billions of years ago. It means a lake must have existed in the area.

The Curiosity rover took this image of a rock formation informally dubbed "Darwin." Scientists had the rover stop in this region, called Waypoint 1, because it appeared to be a prime area to study the inner makeup and history of the floor of the Gale Crater. Analysis of Darwin may provide evidence of whether water played a role in the layering of rocks in this region.

Curiosity began a trek toward Mount Sharp after spending more than six months in the "Glenelg" area. This image was taken on July 16, 2013, after the rover passed the 1-kilometer mark for the total distance covered since the start of the mission.

The lower slopes of Mount Sharp are visible at the top of this image, taken on July 9, 2013. The turret of tools at the end of the rover's arm, including the rock-sampling drill in the lower left corner, can also be seen.

Curiosity drilled into a rock target called "Cumberland" on May 19, 2013, and it collected a powdered sample of material from the rock's interior. The sample will be compared to an earlier drilling at the "John Klein" site, which has a similar appearance and is about 9 feet away.

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