Stunning Curiosity rover selfie shows Mars’ Pahrump Hills in a wide context


NASA has released a stunning selfie of its Mars Curiosity rover assembled from dozens of images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s robotic arm and shows off sweeping view of the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on the red planet where the rover has been working for five months.

“Compared with the earlier Curiosity selfies, we added extra frames for this one so we could see the rover in the context of the full Pahrump Hills campaign,” said rover team member Kathryn Stack at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “From the Mojave site, we could include every stop we have made during the campaign.”

Pahrump Hills is an outcrop of the bedrock that forms the basal layer of Mount Sharp, at the centre of Mars’ Gale Crater. The mission has examined the outcrop with a campaign that included a “walkabout” survey and then increasingly detailed levels of inspection.

The rover climbed from the outcrop’s base to higher sections three times to create vertical profiles of the rock structures and chemistry, and to select the best targets for sample-collection drilling.

The component images for this self-portrait were taken in late January, while Curiosity was at a drilling site called “Mojave 2”. At that site, the mission collected its second drilled sample of Pahrump Hills for laboratory analysis on Earth.

Prior to the Mojave 2 drilling, Curiosity rover collected samples back in September last year from a site called “Confidence Hills.” Since leaving the Mojave site, Curiosity has driven to another location visible in the scene, where drilling at a site called “Telegraph Peak” is planned.