NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover wows again, this time with a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of its latest drilling location on Vera Rubin Ridge.
Captured on August 9 by the rover’s Mast Camera, the interactive image (given above) shows an exotic view of the six-wheeled robot, along with its most recent drilling target — a slab of rock dubbed “Stoer” and located in a section of Vera Rubin Ridge known as Pettegrove Point, the Inquisitr recently reported.
To make sure you experience the video at its fullest, watch it on a browser that supports playback of 360-degree video and images, such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera, advises NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which uploaded the footage on YouTube on September 6.
One of the first notable things in the recently released panorama is the “thin layer of dust on Curiosity’s deck,” notes NASA.
In all likelihood, the dust gathered on the rover’s deck is a remnant of the global dust storm that raged on the surface of the red planet for nearly four months — and only recently subsided, as reported by the Inquisitr.
“Dust in the wind… and on my deck. Explore the surface of #Mars with me in this new #360video,” the Curiosity Rover’s Twitter account posted yesterday.
Another sign of the passing storm can be seen in the dusty, “umber skies” overhead, which NASA points out are “darkened by a fading global dust storm.”
According to the space agency, the “Stoer” on Mars got its name “after a town in Scotland where important discoveries about early life on Earth were made in lakebed sediments.”
Just like the “Stoer” on Earth, its Martian counterpart also hides important secrets, which Curiosity hopes to unravel. Before taking some time to admire the sights and capture the beautiful snapshots that went on to produce this gorgeous 360-degree video, the rover rolled up its metaphorical sleeves and went to work, grabbing a drilled sample from Stoer.
This was Curiosity’s third attempt to drill into the Pettegrove Point formation, and the only one to be successful, JPL revealed in a blog post from August 13.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, Curiosity has had a hard time with some of its drill targets. In mid-July, the rover came across a Martian rock that put its drill to shame, refusing to yield a drilled sample.
Its first two attempts at the Pettegrove Point site “were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks” as well, NASA officials wrote in the video release.
While there’s no way of knowing which rocks are harder and therefore more difficult to drill into, the Curiosity team has learned that Vera Rubin Ridge has a complex structure. For instance, a specific ledge on the ridge is believed to be made up of tougher material, whereas a portion underneath the ledge has considerably softer rocks.
“The ridge isn’t this monolithic thing — it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colors,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at JPL, said in a statement. “Some are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are.”
Curiosity has been exploring Vera Rubin Ridge since the end of 2017. The area is located on the slopes of Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) mountain rising in the middle of the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater on Mars.
The rover aims to snag two more drilled samples from this area by the end of the month. Come October, Curiosity will be moving on to a higher location on Mount Sharp and will start researching a clay-rich area brimming with sulfate minerals.