NASA's Curiosity rover will have it's one year anniversary of landing on Mars next week and has already accomplished its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life. The mobile laboratory is also guiding designs for future planetary missions.
"Successes of our Curiosity -- that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then -- advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Wheel tracks now, will lead to boot prints later."
After inspiring millions of people across the world with its successful landing in a crater on the Mars on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, 2012, EDT), Curiosity has provided more than 190 gigabits of data; returned more than 36,700 full images and 35,000 thumbnail images; fired more than 75,000 laser shots to thoroughly check the composition of targets; gathered and analyzed sample material from two rocks; and driven more than one mile (1.6 kilometers).
The Curiosity mission measured natural radiation levels on the trip to Mars and is tracking radiation and weather on the surface of Mars, which will be helpful for designing future human missions to the planet. The mission also found evidence Mars lost most of its original atmosphere through processes that occurred at the top of the atmosphere. NASA's next mission to Mars, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), is being prepared for launch in November to study those processes in the upper atmosphere.
Read the full story on NASA's website.