NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars for 6 years now — here’s what the red planet’s surface looks like up close

Acidalia Planitia Mars

The surface of Mars is weird and beautiful.

For six years now, since its landing on August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity rover has been exploring one area of our next-planet neighbor.

Curiosity has spent all of its time in the Gale Crater, where it’s traveled just over 12 miles, yet the rover has captured plenty of stunning images. NASA has also collected photos of the Martian surface using spacecraft and other rovers like Opportunity, which is more than 15 years old.

At times, photos of the surface of Mars depict the prototypical idea of the red planet: rocky, dry, dusty, and not unlike a desert you might see on Earth. Yet other formations of craters and canyons are completely different from anything on our planet — there are patches of dark and light colors, carbon dioxide dry ice, and otherworldly patterns.

There’s weather too, like the huge dust storm that recently covered the entire planet.

Here are some of the images that show how stunning the surface of Mars really is, though there’s still far more to be discovered, of course. Just recently, scientists announced that they think there might be a 12-mile-long lake of liquid water hidden underneath one of the red planet’s ice caps.

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Curiosity captured this selfie on the Vera Rubin Ridge at the beginning of 2018. The rover’s arm has been edited out, since the photo is a composite of a number of images.

Just after arriving in 2012, Curiosity took this shot of the base of Mount Sharp, its eventual destination. Many of the mountains and canyons of Mars have names, just like geological features on Earth.

This was one of Curiosity’s first looks at the Gale Crater in 2012. The edge of the crater is broken up by a network of valleys that scientists think were formed by water.

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from SAI