Five years on Mars

The rover Curiosity turns five earthly years of his expedition to the Red Planet. During this time, he managed to walk 17 kilometers along the Gale crater, detect organic compounds in the ground, catch methane in the atmosphere, find numerous evidence of Mars' water past, and study the water that has survived to the present in the surface layer.

The rover has 10 scientific instruments for the study of geology and external conditions on the surface. 17 color and black and white cameras allow you to control the device and learn new details of the evolution of the planet. Inside the rover body there are two complex laboratory instruments hidden, which gave the name to the entire Mars Science Laboratory. The SAM gas chromatograph allows determining the isotopic composition of atmospheric and emitted gases from the soil. CheMin X-ray diffractometer allows crystallographic analysis and the mineral composition of the rock. Two spectrometers ChemCam and APXS determine the chemical composition of the samples, and the first device, due to the laser, can do it remotely from a distance of up to 7 m.

ChemCam job

The Curiosity study continues the work of its predecessors: the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Rovers, and the Phoenix landing platform. The predecessors were able to prove that once there was water on Mars, it was liquid and there was a lot of it. For Curiosity, the work remained to conduct its isotopic analysis, and try to understand where it went. The Russian DAN device on board the rover determines the water content under the apparatus at a depth of 1 meter, and the SAM chromatograph measured isotopic weight. It turned out in Martian water five times more heavy isotopes than in terrestrial.

For exploration, the rover was equipped with several tools on the manipulator. The drilling device was required to extract the rock from a depth sufficient for the preservation of organic compounds from the effects of cosmic radiation. According to scientists, it is enough to 5 cm, so the drill was made 7 cm. The scoop allows you to gain loose soil from the surface. A metal brush frees samples from covering dust.

After the 70s-80s mission, NASA scientists no longer hope to find a Martian life, but the hope that it managed to originate in the ancients more comfortable conditions is still alive. Curiosity must detect and study complex organic compounds that could remain after complete extinction. Not the first time, but it was still possible to find organic matter - first we discovered chlorobenzenes in the soil, then methane in the atmosphere. The question of its origin remains open, Curiosity is not able to identify biomarkers that would show the involvement of life in the formation of these organic compounds. The search for biomarkers on Mars will be taken up by the next rover - the European Paster, which is due to arrive within the framework of the Russian-European mission Exomars in 2020.

During his journey, Curiosity suffered a lot from the harsh Martian conditions. I caught software failures, short circuits, wind sensors were out of order, ultraviolet sensors got clogged with dust, picture quality from color cameras was falling, the macrocamera lid stuck ... Wheels made of thin aluminum slowly but surely destroyed. This year for the first time cracked the frame of one of the most affected wheels.

The drivers of the rover conducted a software update, which promises a more gentle mode of movement, but the beginning of the destruction has already been made. But for the five-year service damage is not fatal, and it can be assumed that the rover is able to overcome no less than the length of the path, even if you have to crawl on the rims.

Another serious malfunction was the jammed drill of the rover . Now he can not gather the soil from the depth, and is forced to scrape the rock with a bucket from the surface.

Looking back, we can conduct a brief overview of the Curiosity journey thanks to the circular panoramas that the rover received from its cameras and which were transformed into spherical panoramas by the talented Russian Andrei Bodrov . He processed almost all the circular panoramas of Curiosity and they are available on his page .

We will look at some of the most iconic - panoramas are clickable, you can use VR glasses for viewing.

Bradbury landing

The landing site of the Curiosity rover. The first inspection of himself and the surroundings. We first saw the slopes of Mount Sharp in the center of Gale's crater, and the ring shaft of the crater, which is visible as a mountain range covering the horizon. On the sides of the rover can be seen four gray spots - traces of the impact of jets of the Sky Crane soft landing system. Thanks to them, you can see that Mars is not red , and its red color of the surface arises from red dust covering everything around.

At the foot of the Sharpe Mountains stretch dark sand dunes, which the rover had to bypass for three long years, on its way to the mountain slopes.

Already in this panorama, the complex work of Andrey, who used two panoramas, from a wide-angle color camera and from a black-and-white navigation camera, was revealed. Thanks to his work, we can examine in detail the body of the rover and only upon careful examination we can see the colored areas turning into black and white. Usually the rover body rarely gets into the lenses of cameras, because most of the time is the study of the surface of Mars, and the rover only interferes with the review.

Those who wish to make sure that the color rendering of the Curiosity cameras is in order can look at the sundial, which can be seen on the body to the left of the RTG radiator.

If you look at the later photos, you can see how the rover is slowly covered with dust.


The bright spot before the rover is the only hope that Mars was once inhabited. Only in this place was it possible to detect clay, in which a high water content was determined - up to 6%, and organic compounds were found. If you bring it closer, you can see that the bright spot is a bluish rock extracted from a well. There are two wells, one shallow, trial, where the operators determine the density and structure of the soil and assess the stability of the rover. With deep drilling, the drill bit could be skewed in the well, so the robot must stand as it is.

In this place, scientists only trained, settling with their machine in "combat" conditions, the very same place lay aside from the main route, and had to leave. The next clay in the path of the rover will occur a few kilometers ahead, let's see whether there will be organic matter there.

In this place, the rover operators, with one of whom we were able to communicate , not only conducted a circular shooting with a mast camera, but also made a selfie with the camera on the manipulator, which took more than 60 frames to get an unusual image of the rover "from the side." Using the high mobility of the manipulator, operators have achieved that the "selfie stick" is not visible. Such pictures are still for many the reason to argue that Mars is not real , and Curiosity has not flown anywhere, because has someone taken it from the side?

In reality, sleight of hand and no fraud.

Such a spherical panorama is also not found on the NASA website. Here again showed the talent of Andrew. He managed to combine a circular panorama with a mast camera and a selfie from the camera on the manipulator. The result was an incredible picture with the effect of presence. The sky of Mars in all panoramas of Andrew is artificial. His image is based on real images, but the rover does not spend the "film" on the sky and concentrates attention on the planet.

You can see the real sky of Mars in the camera images from the manipulator when it is removed from the folded state. In this case, the " horizon littered ", but a lot of space is the sky.


After Glenelg, Curiosity went to the multi-kilometer crossing on the plain at the foot of Sharpe Mountain. His main scientific goals lie on the layered slopes of the mountain, but dark sand dunes interfered with getting to them.

Mindful of the tragic fate of the Spirit rover, firmly stuck in loose soil, the engineers did not risk sending the rover into the thick of the sand, so they moved to the nearest place where the satellite looked at a suitable passage.


In order to somehow diversify the transition across the plain, sometimes the rover was allowed to make a small detour and explore the remnant hills that fell along the way. On the panorama you can see the result of the work of the DRT brush, which cleaned the surface from dust before the start of drilling operations. To the left you can see the stain left by the laser shelling.

Behind the rover can be seen layered deposits left by sandstone, which was once the bottom of a Martian reservoir. As it turned out, almost everything that went through the rover is bottom sediments in different geological periods. Gale's crater was repeatedly filled with water, turning into a round 150 km long lake, only impurities in the water were different, therefore, the rocks were deposited different. Actually, the Mars rover was sent here to study these changes.

Marias Pass

Two years later, Curiosity descended from the hardened plain and began to go up the hill in a wide arc. Rapprochement with the mountain has opened new geological layers, which scientists rushed to study with a new force. For almost half a year, the rover worked in the Pahrump Hills area, made wells, got plenty of laser, but barely moved to the exit, once again it was delayed for another well and selfies in the small Marias Pass canyon.

This time the engineers chose a non-standard angle for the survey. If earlier the manipulator was held at the height of an adult, this time the camera was placed at a height of about half a meter. Due to this, we can examine in detail the front and bottom of the rover. On the same panorama, the shadow of the manipulator is clearly visible, which could not be hidden by cross-filming.

Murray buttes

Small table mountains Murray Buttes gave a lot of beautiful landscapes. For the full immersion, it is recommended to watch under the Soviet soundtrack to the movie "McKenna's Gold".

This highland was the result of weathering of sediments carried by the river from a canyon on the slope of Mount Sharp. Prior to this canyon, we still get a couple of years, but for now we can see only these distant echoes of ancient floods.

Bagnold dunes

The long-awaited dark sands, which had loomed in the distance for four years, finally approached and filled all the panoramas. Scientists once argued how active these sands are today, when the atmosphere of Mars is very rarefied, and the sands could long ago have cemented and turned into frozen stone waves. But no, first from the satellite we considered that the dunes continue to move and move about a meter a year, and then Curiosity saw the movement of a sandy ripple.

The sand is of volcanic origin and, under certain lighting conditions, may appear black with a blue tint. Although at close inspection, it seems orange, so that the Martian dispute "black and blue VS white and orange" is already billions of years old.

After the dunes, Curiosity came close to one of the important goals of its path - the Hematite Range. This extended hill was once the bottom of a Martian river, and, under the influence of some factors, iron ore in the form of hematite was deposited on its bottom. Now it is known thanks to satellite observation. The rover will try to find hematite directly in place and determine the cause of its occurrence. One of the hypotheses indicates the possibility of biological participation, but so far there are few reliable arguments.

Now all rovers and satellites of Mars have a forced vacation - between us and them is the Sun, whose powerful radio emission blocks the possibility of communication. Therefore, while on Earth the glasses are ringing on the occasion of the anniversary, Curiosity stands alone on a desert planet and works as a stationary climate station, studying Mars with its shrinking sensor arsenal.

And finally, you can enjoy the joke of Andrei Bodrov - the night Mars.

In reality, the rover did not make such panoramas, and at night he made few observations of natural satellites, Jupiter or large asteroids, and he is not given such beauty - they are not adapted to night shooting of the camera. Yes, and such a picturesque sky there is not even a man see. The atmosphere is thin, but the dust degrades the quality and the brightness of the stars will not differ significantly from the terrestrial mountainous terrain, and this panorama of the sky is obtained with a long exposure on Earth.


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