On Aug. 6, 2012, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, comprised of the new Curiosity rover, officially began when Curiosity was successfully lowered onto the Martian surface via a first-of-its-kind skycrane. Curiosity‘s landing location was at the base of Mount Sharp (officially referred to as Aeolis Mons) in Gale Crater — a 3.5 billion-year-old crater that scientists believe was once a lake.
In the 11 years since its historic landing, Curiosity has explored Gale Crater extensively, collecting data on Martian soil, rock formations, weather, and more. In September 2014, after exploring its landing region, named Aeolis Palus, and completing an eight-kilometer trek to the base of Mount Sharp, Curiosity began climbing up the slopes of Mount Sharp. Every day since then, the rover has continued to slowly creep toward the top of Mount Sharp and has made scientific discoveries that will change planetary science and astrobiology forever.
Curiosity and its team will celebrate its 11th anniversary by doing what the rover does best: exploring Mars. Throughout the last several weeks, Curiosity explored a region of Mount Sharp called “Jau.” The region is covered with dozens and dozens of small impact craters that Curiosity and its team had to carefully navigate.