From NYT: 28 Months on Mars

New York Times

The New York Times

December 9, 2014
By Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, Jonathan Corum and Jeremy White
Sources: NASA; Jet Propulsion Laboratory; NASA’s Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility; Joe Knapp; U.S.G.S. Astrogeology Science Center. Images by NASA and J.P.L. Panoramas, animation and mountain rendering by The New York Times

NASA’s Curiosity rover has explored Gale Crater for 833 Martian days, or Sols. And it has found evidence, written in red rocks and sand, of lakes and streams on a warmer, wetter, habitable Mars.

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover
Curiosity

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Traces of a Crater Lake
Gale Crater as it might have appeared several billion years ago. Snow on the crater’s rim fed rivers and deltas flowing into the lake. The moving water carried sediment and carved patterns in the sand of the lakebed, leaving traces in the rocks that Curiosity is now driving over. The water was not too salty or too acidic, and could have supported microbial life.

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Precision Landing
Sol 0·Aug. 6, 2012
The Curiosity rover touches down after an intricate, seven-minute landing sequence. The first images returned from the martian surface show the rover’s shadow stretching toward the bright slopes of Mount Sharp.

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Rolling Out
Sol 16·Aug. 22, 2012
After spending two weeks testing its instruments, Curiosity makes its first drive and leaves its rocket-scorched landing site.

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A Scoop of Rocknest
Sol 61·Oct. 7, 2012
Curiosity’s arm scoops its first sample of Martian soil, leaving a dark mark in a dune named Rocknest.

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Self Portrait at Rocknest
Sol 84·Oct. 31, 2012
The rover spends six weeks at the Rocknest dune, studying the composition of the crater’s wind blown sand.

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Six Months in Yellowknife Bay
Sols 124–299·Dec. 11, 2012–June 9, 2013
Curiosity spent most of its first Earth year on Mars in a broad, shallow basin called Yellowknife Bay. The rover drilled holes and took samples of low-lying mudstone, which formed from ancient lake and stream sediment.

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Drilling at John Klein
Sol 168·Jan. 25, 2013
The rover examines a patch of mudstone on the floor of Yellowknife Bay for a suitable spot to drill. Curiosity was the first rover to drill a hole in another planet and extract a sample. A suite of chemistry experiments in the rover analyze the rock, which formed billions of years ago from lake sediments.

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Drilling at Cumberland
Sol 279·May 19, 2013
Curiosity’s extended arm drills a second hole in Yellowknife Bay, extracting samples from a flat mudstone site named Cumberland.

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The Long Drive to Mount Sharp
Sol 324·July 4, 2013
Curiosity begins driving toward its destination at the base of Mount Sharp, after almost a full Earth year studying the terrain near the landing site.

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Darwin
Sol 392·Sept. 12, 2013
The rover’s first waypoint on its long drive to Mount Sharp is an outcrop called Darwin, an exposed patch of the bedrock underlying Gale Crater. Curiosity briefly studies the rock for evidence of past flowing water.

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Upgrade at Cooperstown
Sol 442·Nov. 3, 2013
Curiosity pauses at its second waypoint, a scarp named Cooperstown. The rover spends a week downloading, installing and unexpectedly troubleshooting a software update from Earth.

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Crossing Dingo Gap
Sol 538·Feb. 9, 2014
Curiosity looks back after driving over an elegant crescent-shaped dune spanning a narrow valley pass.

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Layered Sandstone at the Kimberley
Sol 580·March 25, 2014
Curiosity examines the Kimberley, a large outcrop of layered sandstone slabs tilted toward Mount Sharp. The outcrop supports the idea that layers of lake and stream sediment accumulated in Gale Crater over millions of years.

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Self Portrait at Windjana
Sol 613·April 27, 2014
Curiosity takes a self portrait near the end of its two-month exploration of the Kimberley outcrop. The rover is looking down at Windjana, a sandstone slab it drilled into eight days later.

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On Damaged Wheels
Sol 679·July 4, 2014
The rover’s aluminum wheels have been heavily torn by driving five miles across the rough terrain of Gale Crater. To limit further damage, the rover has tried choosing paths over softer ground and sometimes driving in reverse.

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Retreat From Hidden Valley
Sol 711·Aug. 6, 2014
Curiosity ends its second Earth year on Mars with its wheels deep in soft sand. Mission planners had hoped to drive across the rippled sand of Hidden Valley to protect the rover’s battered wheels, but decide to back out and stick to harder ground.

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Pahrump Hills
Sol 752·Sept. 17, 2014
Curiosity reaches the Pahrump Hills, a pale outcrop of rock that is part of the base of Mount Sharp. The dark rippled areas are windblown drifts of sand and dust covering the flat bright rocks of the Pahrump Hills outcrop.

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Drilling Into the Mountain
Sol 759·Sept. 24, 2014
Curiosity drills a hole in the Pahrump Hills outcrop. This is the rover’s first chance to sample rock from the base of Mount Sharp. Previous drill sites were rocks from the plain surrounding the mountain.

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Salt Crystals in Mojave
Sol 809·Nov. 15, 2014
Curiosity cleans red dust from a patch of Martian rock named Mojave, part of the Pahrump Hills outcrop. Scattered through the rock are rice-shaped crystals of salt, which likely formed when an ancient lake or stream dried out. The crystals hint at a cycle of dry and wet conditions in the distant past of Gale Crater.

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This Week
Sol 831·Dec. 7, 2014
In its 11th week at Pahrump Hills, Curiosity is making a second loop around the pale stones of the outcrop, brushing dust from the most interesting rocks and looking for a suitable place to drill.

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The Path Ahead
Curiosity has driven six miles since leaving its landing site. Soon the rover will begin climbing Mount Sharp, picking its way through buttes striped with layers that record the geological history of Gale Crater and the changing Martian environment.

See the full article, with animations, here.

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