Mars Curiosity Rover Sends Back Photo of Massive Mount Sharp

Friday, 02 February 2018 - 7:22PM
Space
Mars
NASA
Friday, 02 February 2018 - 7:22PM
Mars Curiosity Rover Sends Back Photo of Massive Mount Sharp
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NASA/JPL-Caltech
While NASA prepares their fancy Mars 2020 rover to be launched in... well, 2020, the previous Mars rover is still running extremely smoothly.

Currently exploring the Vera Rubin Ridge area on the Martian surface, the Curiosity rover briefly stopped the other day to turn its camera around and take a quick self-portrait. The photo shows the beginning of the clay slope that Curiosity is about to begin trekking, but more interestingly, you can see almost all of Mount Sharp sticking up in the photo's background.

At least, you would be able to see all of it were Curiosity's mast/"head" not blocking the view. But it's still an impressive look at the 18,000 foot (5.5. kilometer) high Mount Sharp, which is officially called Aeolus Mons and has remained a major destination for the rover since it first landed in 2012.

Check out the photo below:




If the mountain doesn't quite look like 18,000 feet, that's because Vera Rubin Ridge (named for influential astronomer Vera Rubin) is already located about 1,000 feet (300 meters) on Mount Sharp, making the peak look less intimidating from this angle. But it's still a massive sight, completely uninhabited save for this one modest rover.

A press release from NASA goes into more detail about why Mount Sharp is such a major point of interest, specifically because Curiosity is on track to remain there permanently:

Opening quote
"When Curiosity landed on Mars five years ago, the team's intention was to study lower Mount Sharp, where the rover will remain for all of its time on Mars. The mountain's base provides access to layers formed over millions of years. These layers formed in the presence of water — likely due to a lake or lakes where sediments accumulated, which formed these layers inside Gale Crater."
Closing quote


When NASA launches the more advanced 2020 rover, we'll get more high definition photos of Martian locales like this one, since that new rover has a multitude of state-of-the-art equipment with several high-tech cameras included.

But much like how the Opportunity rover is still navigating another corner of Mars after 14 years - and it was only supposed to work for 90 days - Curiosity is still going to be sending back info on Martian points of interest.

Even if it likes to block some of them with its head.

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