"Our rover operations team has hit its stride," Vasavada said in the video. "It used to take a month to drill and analyze a rock sample. Now it takes just a week."
He added that despite "expected wear and tear" on Curiosity's wheels, they continue to function and are expected, with careful driving, to enable the rover to cover all the ground it needs to during its mission.
Just last month, NASA announced that Curiosity now is using an artificial intelligence system that allows the machine to pick out targets -- without human intervention -- to photograph and hit with its laser.
Curiosity now is "frequently" choosing multiple targets every week on its own.
With Curiosity's long-term success already assured, NASA engineers now are working on building their next robotic Mars rover.
The next rover, scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 and land on Mars in February 2021, has the goal of going the next step. While Curiosity is searching for proof that Mars could have supported life in its history, the next rover will search for evidence of that ancient life.
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