The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars rover, known as Curiosity, has snapped a selfie while capturing a panoramic image of its location on Vera Rubin Ridge on the Red Planet.
In the photograph, a thin layer of dust is visible on Curiosity, the result of a storm that enveloped Mars in recent months.
The darkish sky indicates dust was still clogging the atmosphere on August 9, when the panorama was shot by Curiosity’s mast camera.
The rover, which is about the size of a Mini Cooper, is equipped with 17 cameras and a robotic arm fitted with specialised tools and instruments.
It had just drilled for a new rock sample on the ridge when it captured the images.
According to NASA scientist Ashwin Vasavada, the rover has never before encountered a place with so much variation in colour and texture.
“The ridge isn’t this monolithic thing — it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colours,” Mr Vasavada said in a statement on NASA’s website.
“Some are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see.”
The new drill sample taken from the ridge was a breakthrough for the Curiosity team, because the rover’s last two attempts to collect drill samples were thwarted by extremely hard rocks.
Scientists tested a theory that while the ledge on this ridge might be made of harder rock that could withstand wind erosion, the area below the ledge could have softer, more easily eroded rocks.
Their theory was correct — and they collected valuable rock samples, as well as an 360-degree view of the rover, the ridge and its surroundings.
Curiosity is nuclear powered and is therefore unaffected by the lack of sunlight on Mars.
NASA’s older rover Opportunity, however, relies on solar power and has been silent since June.
Flight controllers hope as the Martian sky continues to clear, Opportunity will get back in contact.
But after almost 15 years exploring the Red Planet, Opportunity may not have the strength or ability for a comeback.
p class=”published”> First posted