NASA's Curiosity rover touched down the surface of Mars eight years ago, on Aug. 5, 2012, at the basin of Gale Crater. The focus was to study whether the red planet had, at any given point in time, water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources to support microbial life. So, if we're using earth's rotation as the measurement of time, we can technically wish Curiosity a happy birthday!
Equipped with an array of instruments, it has drilled rocks and scooped soil samples for analysis revealing that Mars has indeed been suitable for sustaining life. Other questions it's seeking to shed light into, is how the climate of the planet has changed over time. A set of changes that's made it lose bodies of water and turn it into the cold desert that it is today.
Curiosity has already detected complex organic chemicals in Gale Crater rocks, and it has also encountered plumes of methane (which here on Earth are primarily produced by living organisms) although their origins remain unclear.
For collecting all these scientific data, during its eight years on Mars, Curiosity has put more than 14 miles (23 km) on its odometer. And although the distance record is held by the Opportunity rover at 28.06 miles, I truly hope Curiosity is able to top it.
Thanks for all the hard work, Curiosity!