With Elon Musk planning to colonise Mars and the ongoing debate about the possibility of human survival in outer space, have you noticed the ominous absence of the ‘Curiosity’? It has been long since we last heard from NASA’s Curiosity rover, but now the bot is back in the news.
The rover was busy fishing for rocks, drilling, and collecting rock powder samples. Curiosity Rover has finally finished the inspection of ‘Murray Buttes’ and has now ventured onto its next assignment: the exploration of the Mount Sharp. Curiosity rover has not lost its touch and snapped a dramatic selfie as it posed with the sharp Martian landscape in the background.
The image was taken on September 17, 2016, and is a fusion of more than sixty pictures captured by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The camera and the arm supporting it have been removed from the picture to give it an eerie touch as if some Martian snapped the image of the rover (Matt Damon, eh?)
The dark plateau in the image background is named M12 while the top right corner of the image shows the Mount Sharp. M12 is approximately 23 feet higher than the base of the sloping rocks visible behind the Curiosity rover. The robotic explorer of Mars has snapped some of the most beautiful images of Mars we have ever seen.
Next, the NASA scientists want the rover to explore the Murray Buttes region for which Curiosity will climb more than 1.5 miles to explore a large, iron oxide-rich ridge. The rover will also investigate the clay-rich bedrock exposed beyond the hematite ridge.
NASA researchers hypothesised that both the regions originated in varying environmental conditions. However, they are interested in finding out if any of these environments were habitable. The premise of this investigation is the fact that soggy conditions lead to hematite and clay formation.
Curiosity Project Scientist, Ashwin Vasavada optimistically commented that:
“We continue to reach higher and younger layers on Mount Sharp. Even after four years of exploring near and on the mountain, it still has the potential to completely surprise us.”
NASA also has interactive panorama whereby the users can steer the Curiosity lens using their mouse and investigate Mars for themselves.