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Curiosity rover selfie celebrates first Martian year

Curiosity already passed the one Earth-year milestone, now NASA marks the occasion of a full Martian year with a fresh rover selfie.

Curiosity rover selfie
Smile for the camera, Curiosity. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Compared with an Earth year, a Mars year takes its sweet time reaching New Year's Day. It takes 687 Earth days to get there. That's how long NASA's Curiosity rover has been trucking around the surface of the Red Planet, exploring the strange new world (though so far failing to discover any new civilizations).

The June 24 Martian anniversary is a big occasion, but Curiosity won't be popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. Instead, NASA has released a gorgeous new selfie patched together from dozens of images taken with the camera at the end of the rover's arm. That camera is known as the Mars Hand Lens Imager.

The selfie was captured at a site called Windjana, where Curiosity was taking a closer look at layers of sandstone exposed by varying levels of erosion. The rover sits at the spot where it drilled into the surface to collect a rock powder sample. If you look closely, you can see, to Curiosity's left, the small grayish hole where the rover was working. The images used for the composite were taken in April and May of this (Earth) year.

To keep the image in perspective, NASA reminds us that the rover's wheels are 20 inches in diameter. There's a whole lot of horizon on display in the distance, along with stretches of rocky ground and rising dunes.

The rover has traveled nearly five miles across the planet's surface, discovering evidence of water in Mars' past and leaving open the possibility that ancient life may once have existed there. Whether you measure it in Earth years or Martian years, Curiosity has had a memorable time on Mars already, and there's a lot more to come.