Curiosity rover remains the selfie king of our solar system

4 Oct 2016

Curiosity Mars rover at Mount Sharp. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover has once again taken a break from its Mars-based digging brief, sending a selfie image back to Earth to give us all location envy.

Over a year since its last superb selfie, NASA’s Curiosity rover has continued its drilling on Mars. Currently, it is taking in the scenery at a site called Quela, in the Murray Buttes region of Mount Sharp.

We know this because it has, once again, sent us back a postcard image of itself surrounded by miles and miles of red rock.

Future Human

Curiosity Mars rover

Curiosity Mars rover at Mount Sharp (click to emlarge). Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mars rover at Mount Sharp (click to enlarge). Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The latest selfie was taken after collecting drilled rock powder in arguably the most scenic landscape visited by a Mars rover to date.

Now on the move, Curiosity is driving towards uphill destinations as part of its two-year mission extension that commenced at the start of the month.

Destinations on its menu include a ridge capped with material rich in the iron-oxide mineral hematite, about 2.5km in the distance, and an exposure of clay-rich bedrock beyond that.

“We continue to reach higher and younger layers on Mount Sharp,” said Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Even after four years of exploring near and on the mountain, it still has the potential to completely surprise us.”

Beyond the image sent home, NASA has also produced a 360-degree video on YouTube for us to engage in Curiosity’s surroundings.

Curiosity has so far found plenty of rock remains of mudstone, which NASA thinks was formed at the bottom of ancient lakes. How old? We don’t know.

“We will see whether that record of lakes continues further,” Vasavada said. “The more vertical thickness we see, the longer the lakes were present, and the longer habitable conditions existed here.”

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) recently released more than 1,000 images of the surface of Mars, the likes of which we have rarely seen before.

The MRO has been orbiting the Red Planet to map it in as much detail as possible, to help us understand the planet and how its weather behaves, and to also choose a human landing site for a future mission.

MRO image

Possible phyllosilicates in ejecta of small crater in Tyrrhena Terra

MRO 5 terrain

Terrain near Peneus Patera

MRO 4 craters

Craters on crater fill

MRO 3 slopes

Steep slopes

MRO image spider

Spiders not on south polar layered deposits

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic