Have A Look At This Awesome Panoramic Shot Taken By Curiosity
NASA's Curiosity Rover has a bit of a trek ahead of it - eight kilometers, to be exact. Perhaps that's not a whole lot for a human being with vehicular transportation, but for the little robot, it's a trip worthy of writing a song about. The probe began the long journey back in June, and still has a few months left before it arrives at its destination, the base of Mount Sharp.
Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons, will serve as Curiosity's new home for some time. There, it will investigate the geological history of the Red Planet. If that doesn't sound very exciting, consider the ultimate goal of this research: in conjunction with the Opportunity Rover, Curiosity is ultimately searching for evidence that Mars may once have supported life.The data gathered at the base of Mount Sharp will hopefully go a long way as far as that goal is concerned.
In particular, scientists are searching for evidence of fossils or the presence of organic carbon, either of which could indicate that the planet was once home to living creatures.
Of course, it's going to be a while before that initiative bears fruit. As I said, Curiosity still has a pretty long journey ahead of it. Apparently, NASA isn't too bothered by that fact, though - they're just enjoying the ride. This past weekend, Curiosity stopped at an outcrop known as The Kimberly (so named for its resemblance to a similar area in Northwestern Australia) to take some positively breathtaking images, which have been compiled into a panorama by graphics artist Jason Major.
Turns out, it didn't just stop here to take some pretty pictures. According to NASA, the region in which the probe has stopped contains a great deal of sedimentary sandstone, made from small grains held together by a cement-like matrix. The characteristics of this cement can reportedly tell them a great deal about the geological history of the area...so they're going to drill into it. That isn't something the probe can just do instantaneously, though.
To prepare for the operation, the team first needed to "thwack" the probe's CHIMRA instrument (a tool which scoops, sieves, and delivers samples to the robot's internal laboratory). This process involved winding up a large spring and releasing it - the vibrations cleared the residual dust out from the previous sampling operation at John Klein.
Unfortunately, this didn't exactly go off without a hitch. The first sign of trouble was that Curiosity had difficulty recovering images taken of the CHIMRA instrument, something which was necessary to determine whether or not the thwacking operation was a success. Even after the team downloaded the pictures, the rover predicted that moving its arm in the fashion they'd requested would cause a "fault." As a result, all activity was ceased until the operators could figure out a safer way.
Because of this, Curiosity has been sitting in the same place for the last few days, allowing scientists to put together some more detailed plans. In the meantime, they figured they might as well have the probe take a few more pictures - it's not like it was going to be doing anything else, after all. Oh, they also shot some rocks with lasers and x-rays.
What that means for us is that we get to see a few more amazing detail shots of Mars. I'd call that a win, wouldn't you?