NASA’s revolutionary Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012 and as per NASA, the five-year journey of Mars rover has been incredible so far. Recently, the curiosity team released some breathtaking images captured by Curiosity rover since its arrival on the Red Planet. The Curiosity rover captured all these images with the help of its Mast Camera (Mastcam) in the month of October last year. On January 22, the Curiosity team received those images through NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiter.
After getting the images, NASA scientists combined all the images and created panorama overlooks many sites visited by the rover throughout its journey so far. During the time the images were captured, Curiosity was climbing the Vera Rubin Ridge situated on the North Flank of Mount Sharp. The panorama consists of a mind-blowing vista of many important areas of Martian surface that the Curiosity visited and studied, since its arrival on Gale Carter.
The Curiosity team also released a similar panoramic image containing the names of the key sites that the rover visited. One of them is Yellowknife Bay where Curiosity found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment that had all of the basic chemical ingredients needed for microbial life. From the Vera Rubin Ridge, distant mountains beyond the Gale Crater could be seen. For example, a hill on the Northern horizon, almost 85 kilometres away from the crater, is visible from the picture. The picture consists of mostly Gale crater’s northern rim which rises to about 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers. These breathtaking pictures were taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam when the rover paused for few moments on the northern Edge of Vera Rubin Bridge and the panorama encompasses much of the 11-mile (18-kilometer) route the rover has managed to cover so far.
For taking the pictures, the Mastcam used its left eye (34-millimeter lens camera to capture a wide view) and the right eye (100-millimeter lens camera to get a narrow, more detailed picture). NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft created history when it delivered data to Curiosity team last week. The MAVEN orbiter achieved a record-setting relay surpassing a gigabit of data during a single relay session from Mars for the first time in history, as informed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said, “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. Vasaveda furthers said that from their perch on Vera Rubin Ridge, they found vast plains of crater floor stretched out to the ecstatic that formed the northern rim of Gale Crater. Currently, the Curiosity rover is at the southern edge of Vera Rubin ridge
Moreover, Curiosity is the largest and most capable rover ever sent to Mars. It launched November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012).
Curiosity set out to answer the question: Did Mars ever have the right environmental conditions to support small life forms called microbes? Early in its mission, Curiosity’s scientific tools found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars. It continues to explore the rock record from a time when Mars could have been home to microbial life.
Curiosity carries the biggest, most advanced instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the Martian surface. The history of Martian climate and geology is written in the chemistry and structure of the rocks and soil. Curiosity reads this record by analyzing powdered samples drilled from rocks. It also measures the chemical fingerprints present in different rocks and soils to determine their composition and history, especially their past interactions with water.
It is fit to climb over knee-high obstacles and travels about 100 feet (30 meters) per hour, depending on instrument activity, the terrain, and visibility its cameras have of the path ahead. The rover carries a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium’s radioactive decay. This electrical power source has already far exceeded its required operating lifespan on Mars’ surface of at least one full Martian year (687 Earth days). The generator provides greater mobility and flexibility in operating the rover regardless of season or sunlight. The steady flow of electrical power has enhanced the science payload capability and permitted consideration of landing sites at a greater range of latitudes than was possible on previous rovers.