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A chapter of the layered geological history of (Credit: AP)

A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this color image from NASA's Curiosity rover showing the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination. The pointy mound in the center of the image, looming above the rover-sized rock, is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 300 feet (100 meters) high. (Aug. 23, 2012)

Mars Curiosity rover mission photos

The robotic explorer Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012 in a historic show of engineering prowess. The mission is intended to determine whether or not Mars has an environment needed for microscopic organisms to thrive.

A photo taken by the Curiosity Rover's Mast
(Credit: AP)

A photo taken by the Curiosity Rover's Mast Camera highlights the geology of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside the Gale Crater, where the rover landed. The image provides independent evidence that the absence of hydrated minerals on the upper reaches of Mount Sharp may coincide with a very different formation environment than lower on the slopes. The train of white dots may represent an "unconformity," or an area where the process of sedimentation stopped. (Aug. 27, 2012)

An image taken by the Cruiosity rover's Mast
(Credit: AP)

An image taken by the Cruiosity rover's Mast Camera highlights the geology of Mount Sharp. Observations from orbiting satellites indicated that the lower reaches of Mount Sharp, below the line of white dots, are composed of relatively flat-lying strata that bear hydrated minerals. This image agrees with the data from orbit. (Aug. 27, 2012)

A chapter of the layered geological history of
(Credit: AP)

A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this color image from NASA's Curiosity rover showing the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination. The pointy mound in the center of the image, looming above the rover-sized rock, is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 300 feet (100 meters) high. (Aug. 23, 2012)

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This 360-degree panorama shows evidence of a successful
(Credit: AP)

This 360-degree panorama shows evidence of a successful first test drive for NASA's Curiosity rover. The rover made its first move, going forward about 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotating 120 degrees and then reversing about 8 feet (2.5 meters). Curiosity is about 20 feet (6 meters) from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing. (Aug. 22, 2012)

This image shows the tracks made by Curiosity's
(Credit: Getty Images)

This image shows the tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive. (Aug. 22, 2012)

Tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first
(Credit: Getty Images)

Tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive on the surface of Mars. (Aug. 22, 2012)

This image shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires
(Credit: Getty Images)

This image shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive. (Aug. 22, 2012)

This image shows the terrain around the Curiosity
(Credit: Getty Images)

This image shows the terrain around the Curiosity rover during its first test drive. (Aug. 22, 2012)

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This 360-degree panorama shows evidence of a successful
(Credit: AP)

This 360-degree panorama shows evidence of a successful first test drive for NASA's Curiosity rover. The rover made its first move, going forward about 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotating 120 degrees and then reversing about 8 feet (2.5 meters). Curiosity is about 20 feet (6 meters) from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing. (Aug. 22, 2012)

Tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first
(Credit: Getty Images)

Tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive. (Aug. 22, 2012)

An image taken by the Curiosity rover's Navcam.
(Credit: Getty Images)

An image taken by the Curiosity rover's Navcam. A little more than two weeks after its arrival on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover will on August 22 make its first "test drive" before setting off on its Red Planet mission, the US space agency said. (Aug. 21, 2012)

An image of Mount Sharp, taken by the
(Credit: Getty Images)

An image of Mount Sharp, taken by the Curiosity rover's Navcam. (Aug. 21, 2012)

An image taken by the Curiosity rover's Rear
(Credit: Getty Images)

An image taken by the Curiosity rover's Rear Hazcam. (Aug. 21, 2012)

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A view of the lower reaches of Mount
(Credit: Getty Images)

A view of the lower reaches of Mount Sharp on Mars. It is likely that Curiosity will begin its ascent of Mount Sharp through hundreds of feet of layered deposits. (Aug. 18, 2012)

A set of marks on the surface of
(Credit: Getty Images)

A set of marks on the surface of Mars show where blasts from the Curiosity rover's descent-stage rocket engines blew away some of the surface material. This particular scour mark is near the rear left wheel of the rover and is named Goulburn after a 2-billion year-old sequence of rocks in northern Canada. (Aug. 18, 2012)

This 360-degree image shows a complete, full-resolution panorama
(Credit: Getty Images)

This 360-degree image shows a complete, full-resolution panorama around NASA's Curiosity rover. The pointy rim of Gale Crater can be seen as a lighter strip along the top right of the image. The base of Mount Sharp can be seen along the top left. The terrain Curiosity will explore is marked by hills, buttes, mesas and canyons on the scale of one-to-three story buildings, very much like the Four Corners region of the western United States. (Aug. 17, 2012)

The surface of Mars is seen from the
(Credit: Getty Images)

The surface of Mars is seen from the Curiosity rover's front hazard avoidance cameras underneath the rover deck. (Aug. 17, 2012)

A color-enhanced image taken by the High Resolution
(Credit: Getty HO)

A color-enhanced image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows NASA's Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. The descent stage blast pattern around the rover is clearly seen as relatively blue colors (Aug. 14, 2012)

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This image provided by NASA shows a high-resolution
(Credit: AP)

This image provided by NASA shows a high-resolution 360-degree color panorama of Gale Crater taken by the Curiosity rover after it landed on Mars. Curiosity is on a two-year mission to study whether Gale could support microbial life. (Aug. 9, 2012)

This image shows the gravelly Martian surface surrounding
(Credit: Getty Images)

This image shows the gravelly Martian surface surrounding the Curiosity rover. (Aug. 9, 2012)

This image from NASA's Curiosity rover looks south
(Credit: AFP/NASA)

This image from NASA's Curiosity rover looks south of the rover's landing site on Mars towards Mount Sharp, made from images obtained by Curiosity's Mast Camera. Colors have been modified as if the scene were transported to Earth and illuminated by terrestrial sunlight. The image shows the eventual geological targets Curiosity will explore, starting with the rock-strewn, gravelly surface close by, and extending towards the dark dunefield. (August 9, 2012)

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived
(Credit: Getty Images)

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover are spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. The relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust. (Aug. 8, 2012)

This image released by NASA shows tracks made
(Credit: Getty HO)

This image released by NASA shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive as seen by Navcam: Left A (NAV_LEFT_A) on board NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 16, August 22, 2012 at 14:58:11 UTC. A little more than two weeks after its arrival on Mars, the $2.5 billion rover, which landed on Mars on August 6, has performed a battery of tests and appears ready to embark on its two-year mission to explore the Red Planet in the hunt for signs of life. AFP PHOTO/HANDOUT/ NASA/JPL-Caltech = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / NASA/JPL-Caltech " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS =HO/AFP/GettyImages

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This image released by NASA shows tracks made
(Credit: Getty Images)

This image released by NASA shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive as seen by Front Hazcam: Right A (FHAZ_RIGHT_A) on board NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 16, Aug. 22, 2012.

This undated image made available by NASA shows
(Credit: AP Photo)

This undated image made available by NASA shows Mars' Gale Crater, looking south. The formation is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a layered mountain rising about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. (AP Photo/NASA)

This image provided by NASA shows the Gale
(Credit: AP Photo)

This image provided by NASA shows the Gale Crater Martian landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover. The Gale Crater is approximately the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (AP Photo/NASA)

NASA scientists named the Curiosity touch-down area Bradbury
(Credit: AP)

NASA scientists named the Curiosity touch-down area Bradbury Landing after writer Ray Bradbury, seen on screen, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Aug. 22, 2012.

NASA scientists show a panoramic image of the
(Credit: AP)

NASA scientists show a panoramic image of the Curiosity touch-down area Bradbury Landing, named after writer Ray Bradbury, showing the first tracks of the rover movements, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Aug. 22, 2012.

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Dr. Charles Elachi, director of the NASA Jet
(Credit: AP)

Dr. Charles Elachi, director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, right, explains Curiosity's first test drive around the gravel-strewn Martian terrain to California Gov. Jerry Brown, Aug. 22, 2012, in the control room mission operations center at the JPL in Pasadena, Calif.

This photo provided by NASA's JPL is one
(Credit: AP)

This photo provided by NASA's JPL is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars Sunday. It was taken with a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras on the left-rear side of the rover. The image is one-half of full resolution. The clear dust cover that protected the camera during landing has been sprung open. Part of the spring that released the dust cover can be seen at the bottom right, near the rover's wheel. On the top left, part of the rover's power supply is visible. (August 5, 2012)

In this image released by NASA on Wednesday,
(Credit: AP Photo)

In this image released by NASA on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, an image showing the heat shield of NASA's Curiosity rover, obtained during descent to the surface of Mars. The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet from the spacecraft. (AP Photo/NASA)

IN SPACE - AUGUST 8: In this handout
(Credit: Getty NASA)

IN SPACE - AUGUST 8: In this handout image provided by NASA and released on August 8, 2012, the rover Curiosity's parachute and back shell are strewn across the surface of Mars. The image was captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter about 24 hours after the parachute helped guide the rover to the surface. When the back shell impacted the ground, bright dust was kicked up, exposing darker material underneath. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona via Getty Images)

This photo provided by NASA shows the Curiosity
(Credit: AP )

This photo provided by NASA shows the Curiosity rover, bottom, and its parachute descending to the surface from the vantage point of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Clara Ma, winner of the Mars Science Laboratory
(Credit: AP )

Clara Ma, winner of the Mars Science Laboratory naming contest for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, third from left, hugs NASA's friends and family members as Curiosity lands safely on the Mars surface after a complex new landing technique at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2012)

Kelley Clarke, left, celebrates as the first pictures
(Credit: AP)

Kelley Clarke, left, celebrates as the first pictures appear on screen inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after a successful landing for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. The Curiosity robot is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability and potentially paving the way for human exploration. (Aug. 5, 2012)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity members celebrate the landing
(Credit: AP)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity members celebrate the landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2012)

A spectator watches a live stream of the
(Credit: AP)

A spectator watches a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing while listening to an audio broadcast on her phone among the hundreds of other on-lookers in Times Square in New York. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity landed on Mars Sunday night. (Aug. 6, 2012)

Lennon Batchelor, 27, of Orlando, center, pauses while
(Credit: AP)

Lennon Batchelor, 27, of Orlando, center, pauses while watching a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing while neighboring spectators cheer in Times Square after the successful touchdown. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity landed on Mars Sunday night. (Aug. 6, 2012)

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Alex Trebek addresses bloggers at a NASA social
(Credit: AP )

Alex Trebek addresses bloggers at a NASA social media event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., hours before the Mars rover Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars. (August 5, 2012)

In this handout image provided by NASA, the
(Credit: Getty Images)

In this handout image provided by NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team clap and welcome White House science and technology adviser John Holdren as he stops by to meet the landing team in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. (August 5, 2012)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San
(Credit: AP)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San Martin, left, celebrates with Adam Steltzner of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), right, after the successful landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2012)

Propulsion engineers Todd Barber and Raymond Baker, right,
(Credit: Getty Images)

Propulsion engineers Todd Barber and Raymond Baker, right, work before landing inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbe. (Aug. 5, 2012)

Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John
(Credit: AP)

Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld, left, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) director Charles Elachi present an overview of the status and plans for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at JPL in Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2012)

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FILE - In this 2011 file artist's rendering
(Credit: AP Photo Anonymous)

FILE - In this 2011 file artist's rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, a "sky crane" lowers the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech, file)

Adam Steltzner, Mars Science Laboratory's entry, descent and
(Credit: AP )

Adam Steltzner, Mars Science Laboratory's entry, descent and landing phase leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, uses a scale model to explain the Curiosity rover's path to the surface during a news conference at the laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The rover is headed for a two-year mission to study whether Mars ever had the elements needed for microbial life. (Aug. 2, 2012)

An image made available by NASA shows Mars
(Credit: AP)

An image made available by NASA shows Mars photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope on the planet's closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. (Aug. 26, 2003)

This artist's rendering released by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows how
(Credit: AP )

This artist's rendering released by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dots) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles) that require relaying by orbiters. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth, while NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time. (August 5, 2012)

JPL's Joseph Carsten, a rover driver and flight
(Credit: MCT Patrick T. Fallon)

JPL's Joseph Carsten, a rover driver and flight software developer, watches next to the aluminum wheel of the rover during the surface science and sampling end to end thread test of the Mars rover at the Mars Science Laboratory inside the In-Situ Instruments Lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, June 22, 2012. (Patrick T. Fallon/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

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California Gov. Jerry Brown, third from left, tours
(Credit: AP)

California Gov. Jerry Brown, third from left, tours NASA's Mars Curiosity double rover at the Vehicle System Test Bed, or VSTB, inside the In-Situ Instrument Laboratory room while accompanied by NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Aug. 22, 2012)

California Gov. Jerry Brown, second from left, tours
(Credit: AP)

California Gov. Jerry Brown, second from left, tours NASA's Mars Curiosity double rover at the Vehicle System Test Bed, or VSTB, inside the In-Situ Instrument Laboratory room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Aug. 22, 2012. Seen from left: Peter Theisinger, MSL project manger, NASA JPL, Pasadena; Gov. Brown; Richard Cook, Mars Science Laboratory, MSL Deputy Project Manager, and Dr. Fuk Li, Director for the Mars Exploration Directorate.

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