Monday, 29 July 2013

Curiosity on Mars!

An image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released last week shows NASA's Curiosity Mars rover and the wheel tracks from its landing site to the Glenelg area where the rover worked for the first half of 2013.

The orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured the scene on 27 June 2013, with the orbiter rolled for an eastward-looking angle rather than straight downward. The afternoon sun illuminated the scene from the western sky, so the lighting was nearly behind the camera. This geometry hides shadows and reveals subtle colour variations.

Curiosity that day was examining an outcrop called Shaler, the rover mission's final science target in the Glenelg area before commencing a many-month trek southwestward to an entry point for the lower layers of Mount Sharp. The rover appears as a bright blue spot in the enhanced colouring of the image.

The image also shows two scour marks at the Bradbury landing site where the Mars Science Laboratory mission's skycrane landing system placed Curiosity onto the ground just about one year ago on 6 August 2012.

The scour marks are where the landing system's rockets cleared away reddish surface dust. Visible tracks commencing at the landing site show the path the rover travelled eastward to Glenelg.

Curiosity may be 140 million miles away on a hostile planet but that’s no excuse for not sending home a self-portrait.

This incredible shot shows Curiosity on the surface back in February - it comprises dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day (or sol) of Curiosity's work on Mars plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (10 May 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover.

The updated area, which is in the lower left quadrant of the image, shows grey-powder and two holes where Curiosity used its drill on the rock target ‘John Klein’.

The portion has been spliced into a self-portrait that was originally prepared and released in February before the use of the drill. The result shows what the site where the self-portrait was taken looked like by the time the rover was ready to drive away in May 2013.

MAHLI, which took the component images for the mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm and was able to capture the component images with wrist motions and turret rotations. The arm itself was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, used in the mosaic.

Thanks to the guys at NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS for some great photography work!