Curiosity has failed to trigger enthusiasm on Earth about its drilling venture on Mars but cheered many sending a selfie taken with a panoramic view of the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mars, where it has been working for 5 months.
Curiosity’s latest self-portrait is one of the dozens of images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s robotic arm and the Pahrump Hills in the backdrop of the bedrock that forms the basal layer of Mount Sharp, at the center of Mars’ Gale Crater can be seen in the picture.
Curiosity has taken similar self-portraits with the MAHLI camera at three other sites in the past as it explored them before reaching the base of Mount Sharp, where it is drlling at the second spot though it yeilded no minerals against the expectations on the Earth.
The Curiosity has so far examined the outcrop as part of its “walkabout” survey that gathered details of Mars surface. The rover later climbed from the outcrop’s base to higher sections 3 times to create vertical profiles of the rock structures and chemistry, and to select the best targets for sample-collection drilling.
The current drilling is being carried out at a site called Mojave 2 and the self-portrait was taken in late January. The rover has collected the sample of Pahrump Hills for laboratory analysis.
The first sample, collected in September from a site called “Confidence Hills”, provided no unique clues about the minerals. 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.
“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 Kathryn Stack at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
JPL is monitoring NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project under which Curiosity was sent to assess ancient habitable conditions on Martian surface.