Mars rover celebrates one-year anniversary with selfie - Tucson News Now

Mars rover celebrates one-year anniversary with selfie from UA camera

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(Source: NASA) (Source: NASA)
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

NASA's Curiosity rover has just wrapped up one year on the red planet in its mission to find whether conditions may have once supported life.

That's one Martian year, by the way: 687 days on Earth.  During those days before the new year, Curiosity found time to take a selfie using the HiRISE camera on board, which is a project of the University of Arizona.

It's a lot more complicated than the ones you take with your smart phone. A Curiosity selfie is made up of dozen of component images snapped from a camera on the end of its arm over two months.  NASA downloads those images and combines them into one photo.

Curiosity's landed on Mars in August 2012, and one of its first big discoveries was an ancient riverbed at its landing site.  The rover sampled two mudstone slabs with its drill,  and 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.  NASA says if Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.

According to NASA other important findings during the first Martian year include:

- Assessing natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface provides guidance for designing the protection needed for human missions to Mars.

- Measurements of heavy-versus-light variants of elements in the Martian atmosphere indicate that much of Mars' early atmosphere disappeared by processes favoring loss of lighter atoms, such as from the top of the atmosphere. Other measurements found that the atmosphere holds very little, if any, methane, a gas that can be produced biologically.

- The first determinations of the age of a rock on Mars and how long a rock has been exposed to harmful radiation provide prospects for learning when water flowed and for assessing degradation rates of organic compounds in rocks and soils.

Curiosity paused in driving this spring to drill and collect a sample from a sandstone site called Windjana. The rover currently is carrying some of the rock-powder sample collected at the site for follow-up analysis. agency's headquarters in Washington, and built the project's Curiosity rover.

For more information about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

You can follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at:

http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

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