December 31st, 2012 by James Ayre
The Mars rover Curiosity has taken what is arguable its best self-portrait yet. The panorama shows Curiosity with its eventual destination in the background, the enormous Mount Sharp.
The panorama is a stitched together collage of dozens of different high-def color images taken between October 31st and November 1st. The image clearly depicts the rover in the middle of its previously made tracks, and in the distance the 3-mile-tall Mount Sharp is seen jutting into the sky.
“NASA featured the latest Curiosity portrait as its image of the day Thursday (December 27th) after releasing the photo earlier this month.”
“The prominent Mount Sharp is the central peak of Curiosity’s vast Gale Crater landing site. Another mountain in the image, on the rover’s left, makes up the northern wall of the expansive crater.”
“To create the eye-popping Mars photo, Curiosity used its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a powerful camera mounted at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Curiosity turned the camera on itself much like a human tourist might when traveling alone, snapping a series of photos that rover team members then stitched together into a high-definition composite view.”
“The rover had to move its robotic arm through more than 50 positions in a single day to capture its entire car-size body on camera. NASA scientists used a test version of Curiosity on Earth to practice the Martian photo session.”
“NASA unveiled an earlier version of Curiosity portrait, composed out of 55 separate images, in early November, but the latest view includes significantly more detail and a wider view.”
Some more background on NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity:
“The Curiosity rover is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST aboard the MSL spacecraft and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, 05:17 UTC. The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of the rover’s touchdown target after a 563,000,000 km (350,000,000 mi) journey. The landing site coordinates are: 4.5895°S 137.4417°E.”
“The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.”
“Curiosity’s design will serve as the basis for a planned unnamed 2020 Mars rover mission. In December 2012, Curiosity’s two-year mission was extended indefinitely.”
“Aeolis Mons, also unofficially known as Mount Sharp, is a mountain on Mars. It forms the central peak within Gale Crater and is located around 5.08°S 137.85°E, rising 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high from the valley floor. It is feature ID 15000.”
“The Curiosity Rover landed in ‘Yellowknife’ Quad 5 of Aeolis Palus, next to the mountain, on August 6, 2012. NASA named the landing site Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012. Aeolis Mons is a primary goal for scientific study.”
Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS; NASA/JPL
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