Amazing images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the Curiosity rover trudging across the Martian landscape. The photos date from early December 2013, as Curiosity made its way from the Glenelg area to its main destination, Mount Sharp.
The pictures were taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The photos are so sharp that one can see Curiosity’s parallel wheel tracks, which are only 10 feet (3 m) apart!
The Curiosity rover began its 5 mile (8 kilometer) trek across the Gale Crater in July. NASA isn’t sure when Curiosity will reach Mount Sharp, but it has been able to cover between 50 and 100 feet (15-30 m) on a typical day.
By the time HiRISE snapped the photos of its Martian-bound friend, Curiosity had already traveled about 2.86 miles (4.61 kilometers) from its landing site in Gale Crater in August 2012. The Curiosity rover can be either manually (if remotely) driven or automatically drive itself by analyzing photos it takes and determining a safe route. It has split time doing both.
Curiosity has been studying rock samples and “interesting features” along the way to Mount Sharp. It zapped its 100,000th rock with the ChemCam, a laser-telescope system that allows Curiosity to determine the rocks it encounters.
Scientists hope to find evidence at Mount Sharp about how the Martian environment has changed and evolved over the planet’s history. The rover has already found evidence for an “ancient wet environment favorable for microbial life.” While that means Curiosity has accomplished its main objective, the one-ton rover doesn’t look to quit anytime soon.