NASA’s Curiosity Rover Beams Back Beautiful Martian Panorama Shot

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has sent a glorious and detailed panoramic shot of its location from Vera Rubin Ridge this week. 

In between drilling and analyzing rocks, the car-sized explorer took a selfie, showing the fascinating landscape behind him. 

Mars Curiosity Rover Takes A Selfie

Three months ago, the rover took a series of photos of the Martian landscape from Vera Rubin Ridge, about 1,000 feet above Gale Crater where it landed and began its journey in the red planet five years ago. NASA stitched the photos together to create a panoramic look at where the rover has been so far.

“Even though Curiosity has been steadily climbing for five years, this is the first time we could look back and see the whole mission laid out below us,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “From our perch on Vera Rubin Ridge, the vast plains of the crater floor stretch out to the spectacular mountain range that forms the northern rim of Gale Crater.”

The Curiosity team in Pasadena, California only received the photos from the rover last week. 

The exact landing spot where the rover landed in 2015 is slightly obscured by a slight rise of the ground, but the important sites like the Yellowknife Bay where it found evidence of ancient fresh water-like environment and Peace Vallis suspected to have carried water and sediment billions of years ago were visible. Other Martian pit stops like Kimberley and Murray Buttes were also included in the shot. 

Mission Continues

Curiosity will be continuing its exploration of the red planet but before it moves, the team behind the project hopes to use the rover to through a rock at the Vera Rubin Ridge. 

However, the drill attached at the end of its robotic arm has been out of commission after its snagged and broke in 2016. Scientists have been trying to troubleshoot the problem since last year and have recently found a workaround. 

They will be using the rover’s robotic arm to use the drill against a rock without the need for the stabilizer points which no longer operates. Hopefully, this will let scientists understand why the rocks in the area are too hard. 

The rover will next head to Clay Unit, the low-lying area behind Vera Rubin Ridge where clay minerals have been detected from orbit. 

Curiosity After Mars’ Global Dust Storm

Curiosity survived the planet-wide dust storm weeks ago that covered the Martian atmosphere with red haze. Unlike Opportunity, which remains unresponsive, Curiosity is nuclear-powered and, therefore, does not need the sun to function. 

It does, however, have a light layer of debris on its deck. 

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