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NASA rover marks nine years on Mars with glorious 360-degree panorama

Check out the knobbly rocks and rounded hills that dot the Martian landscape in Curiosity's gorgeous view of its home on the side of a mountain.

NASA's Curiosity rover snapped this panorama from the Gale Crater on Mars on July 3, 2021.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Congratulations, Curiosity, you've survived and thrived for over nine years on another planet. NASA's older Martian rover captured a gorgeous 360-degree panorama in early July and the space agency released it on Tuesday to celebrate the vehicle's August land-iversary. 

Curiosity arrived in the Gale Crater in early August 2012 and has been making a trek up the side of 5-mile-tall (8 kilometer) Mount Sharp. NASA said the views of "knobbly rocks and rounded hills are delighting scientists."

The highly detailed panorama can be downloaded in all its glory from NASA. It consists of 129 individual images stitched together. The sweeping view is wonderfully clear thanks to it being winter in the Gale Crater, a time when the skies aren't clogged with dust.   

NASA also shared a guided tour of the panorama that points out highlights of the landscape, including dark Martian sand and the distant rim of the crater.

The image shows a transition zone between a clay-rich area and a sulfate-bearing region, an area with salty minerals. "The mountain's layers in this area may reveal how the ancient environment within Gale Crater dried up over time," NASA said. Curiosity is investigating the past habitability of Mars.

Curiosity has traveled 16 miles (26 kilometers) and drilled 32 holes in its time on Mars. "Landing day is still one of the happiest days of my professional career," said Curiosity project manager Megan Richardson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

As Curiosity's sibling rover Perseverance works away in a different crater, the elder rover continues its mission of discovery. The science is rolling along, and the views are spectacular.

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