After the massive Martian storm, NASA’s Curiosity rover continued its work and collected more samples from the surface. Two weeks after the storm started to clear, the rover collected a rock sample and took a 360-degree photo of its surroundings. It showed the Vera Rubin area, still draped with a layer of dust in the air.
The panorama shows brown skies, ancient lakebed traces and a glimpse of Mount Sharp. Of course, there’s a selfie of the rover too.
Curiosity used its Mast Camera to capture this panorama and selfie. As for the rock recently collected, NASA was surprised to finally get one, considering previous drill attempts only found hard rocks that wouldn’t crumble.
The region currently investigated by Curiosity, Vera Rubin Ridge, has baffled scientists ever since they discovered it.
“The ridge isn’t this monolithic thing – it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colors,” explains Ashwin Vasavada, who is Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California).
The region has many different colors and textures, and Vasavada added that “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.”
For drilling, the team had to make an educated guess, so considering that the spot below it was supposed to be softer they tried their luck. The scientists knew that the ledge might also contain harder rock.
Curiosity will use this new sample to study it in its internal lab and see what keeps the ridge together, safe from wind erosion.
What About Opportunity?
While Curiosity is on the clock, Opportunity is still taking a nap, waiting for better light. NASA gave the old rover 45 days of active listening. Past that deadline, the agency believes it will most likely not recover:
“The Sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley, and soon there will be enough sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at JPL.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.