NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has now marked 2,000 days on the red planet. That’s 2,000 days by Martian standards. A Martian sol, or solar day, is equivalent to 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds. So 2,000 days on Mars equal 2,055 days here on Earth.
Either way, it’s a big milestone this week for scientists eager for Curiosity to begin drilling again, this time into potentially clay-rich rocks on the slopes of Mount Sharp. The six-wheeled rover has traveled 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) since its arrival in 2012. Since 2014, Curiosity has been climbing up Mount Sharp on the Red Planet, from where it is expected to collect clay particles. It has also experienced terrain that has changed by the actions of water and wind. The rover Curiosity, though, has the Opportunity to beat.
Last month, NASA’s busy Opportunity surpassed 5,000 days on Mars. It’s been exploring Mars since 2004. NASA plans to send another robotic geologist to Mars in May. Named InSight, the lander will stay in one place as a heat-measuring device burrows deep into the Martian terrain.
Curiosity’s flight controllers, meanwhile, are testing a new drilling method. The rover’s drill stopped working properly in 2016, and so engineers devised another way to bore into Martian rocks and get the pulverized rock samples into the rover’s lab instruments.