Curiosity Rover's Latest Images Show Sandy Dunes And Hills On Mars

Curiosity

A week after NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory landed the Curiosity rover on Mars we’ve already seen some amazing images.

As a testament to the great team of scientists and engineers on the Curiosity’s Crew, so far, everything’s been going without a hitch. Here are the latest from the team.

They are still in the process of checking everything out on the rover, and are planning to take it for a test spin in about a week. Stay tuned!

The terrain around the rover's landing site within Gale Crater on Mars.

This huge image was taken from above the surface of Mars using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The image is colour-enhanced to make it easier to see subtle differences on the surface. In reality, the blue colours are more grey.

At the top of the image, you can see Curiosity's landing spot, and the area where the landing stage rockets kicked up dust made the surface look more blue/grey than the area around it. Near the bottom are the foothills of Mount Sharp, which is out of the image frame.

The blast from Curiosity's landing.

Here's a closer up view of that same Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image in the region around Curiosity. This one is also colour-enhanced, making the grey look more blue. The differences in colour mean that different types of materials are shown, most likely the basalt hidden under dust that the rover kicked up while landing.

These images are helping the team decide what route to take to visit Mount Sharp and figure out what might be the best areas to visit to do some science along the way.

Where Curiosity landed within Gale Crater.

This combined image was created with data from each of the Mars orbiters, updated with new information to show where in Gale crater Curiosity touched down. Gale crater is about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Mount Sharp is in the centre, rising 3.4 miles above the crater floor.

Toward the lower middle of the image you can see the green dot locating Curiosity, and the blue-outlined 'landing ellipse' where the team was aiming.

The buttes and mesa of Mount Sharp in the distance.

This huge stitched together image of Gale crater was made with Curiosity's Mastcam. The team is working to figure out what's the best way to get the rover across to the foothills of Mount Sharp and find a few places they might want to stop along the way to collect and analyse samples.

The trip will take about a year to get there, since it takes a few weeks to collect and analyse samples at each of two or three locations, and the rover can only move about a football field per day. It will take about 100 football fields to reach the foothills of Mount Sharp, where the rover will be able to take a close look at the layers of different rocks seen in these images.

'It's fair to say the science team and our rover drivers are itching to move at this point. The science and operations teams are working together for a few different routes,' Ashwin Vasavada deputy project scientist of the Mars Science Laboratory mission at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said in a press conference on Aug. 14.

Where she's headed.

This image was taken with the rover's Mast camera, looking south toward Mount Sharp at the centre of Gale Crater. It's a part of the larger set of images that make up this 360-degree interactive panorama of the Mars surface.

You can see the grey-blueish rocks littering the surface of Mars. The dark dunefield is further in the distance, and the layered buttes of Mount Sharp -- the team's final target -- are in the distance. They are about the height of a small, few-story high, building.

'We've never experienced a vista like this on another planet,' Vasavada said.

The NASA team have modified the colours of this image to look as it would on Earth -- through Earth's sunlight instead of Mars' ruddy atmosphere -- to help Earth-based geologists to recognise and distinguish rocks they are used to seeing on Earth. If a human was actually on Mars, they would see everything with a reddish tint.

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