View of Mars rover's journey so far

Gwen Vasquez
February 3, 2018

Mount Sharp, which is also known as Aeolis Mons, is the central peak within the Gale Crater, rising almost 3.5 miles above the ground. The photo shows the beginning of the clay slope that Curiosity is about to begin trekking, but more interestingly, you can see nearly all of Mount Sharp sticking up in the photo's background.

Curiosity climbed the Vera Rubin Ridge during Mars' winter and got lucky with a clear day. The mountain's base provides access to layers formed over millions of years.

Incredible images, which were sent back to Earth on October 25, 2017, give an unprecedented view of the 11 mile trek along the ridge. These layers formed in the presence of water - likely due to a lake or lakes that sat at the bottom of the mountain, which sits inside Gale Crater.

Its next stop is the slope shown in the self-portrait, where it will probe what's believed to be clay-rich soil.

All of the new pictures were taken as recently as January 23, 2018, during the Martian year Sol 1943.

JPL-Caltech  MSSS  NASA
JPL-Caltech MSSS NASA

The view does not include the rover's arm nor the MAHLI camera itself, except in the miniature scene reflected upside down in the parabolic mirror at the top of the mast.

The image is actually a compilation of dozens of photos captured by Curiosity's Hands Lens Imager, an instrument that is at the end of Curiosity's 7-foot-long robotic arm, which does not appear in the image. This process was used previously in acquiring and assembling Curiosity self-portraits taken at other sample-collection sites, including "Rocknest" (PIA16488), "Windjana" (PIA18390), "Buckskin" (PIA19808) and "Gobabeb" (PIA20316).

"Even though Curiosity has been steadily climbing for five years, this is the first time we could look back and see the whole mission laid out below us", Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said.

What do you think of the Red Planet's serene scenery and how does it compare to the most spectacular views back here on Earth?

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