Mars rover looks back on a five-year journey of discovery.
One panoramic image has captured the epic 18 kilometre journey from its 2012 landing site in Gale Crater up the slopes of Mount Sharp.
NASA released the historic image that takes in the view from “Vera Rubin Ridge” on the north flank of Mount Sharp. The composite image was taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera three months ago, shortly before northern Mars’ winter solstice, a season of clear skies.
“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 Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, in a news release.
“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.”
A selfie of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Mount Sharp stands in the middle of Gale Crater, which is 154 kilometres in diameter.
Curiosity’s mission is to gather data that to determine whether Mars ever have the right environmental conditions to support life. Early in its mission it found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments. The soil data collected by the rover suggests Mars was once a planet of rivers and lakes.
And there will be more images and data to come.
“Last week, the Curiosity team on Earth received copious new images from the rover through a record-setting relay by NASA’s MAVEN orbiter – surpassing a gigabit of data during a single relay session from Mars for the first time in history,” NASA wrote.
An annotated image charts Curiosity’s course. Credit: NASA
MAVEN has much greater data capacity than the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey orbiter which usually relay information from Curiosity. But the nature of MAVEN’s elliptical orbit makes less reliable for optimal relays.
“MAVEN definitely has the potential to move lots of data for us, and we expect to make even more use of it in the future,” said JPL’s Roy Gladden, manager of NASA’s Mars Relay Network Office said in a news release.
Curiosity is set to resume drilling for rock and soil samples after more than a year after being hampered by mechanical problems. NASA engineers are testing a workaround to the problem.
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