A small section of a 360-degree panorama showing the Curiosity Mars rover’s perch on the lower slopes of Mount Sharpe. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
You can’t stand on Mars – yet – but you can at least get a sense of what it would look like, thanks to NASA’s Curiosity rover now exploring the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, a 5.5-kilometre (18,000-foot) tall mound of layered rocks at the center of Gale Crater. The rover recently wrapped up a year-long stay atop Vera Rubin Ridge and is now targeting a nearby trough, nicknamed Glen Torridon, where Mars orbiters have spotted phyllosilicates, clay minerals that formed in water.
“In addition to indicating a previously wet environment, clay minerals are known to trap and preserve organic molecules,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “That makes this area especially promising, and the team is already surveying the area for its next drill site.”
Before it departed Vera Rubin Ridge, Curiosity collected 122 images with its Mastcam camera that could be stitched together to provide a 360-degree panorama of its surroundings (a 230-megabyte version is available here). The view shows Glen Torridon and the upper reaches of Mount Sharp, nearby drill ...