Click for full image.
Most of the images from Curiosity that I have posted recently have been of the spectacular mountain scenery looking south at Mount Sharp itself. Today’s cool image, taken on July 6, 2021 by the rover’s right navigation camera and cropped to post here, instead looks north, out across the floor of Gale Crater to its distant rim about twenty miles away.
The rover is likely not to move for a week or so, as it has just completed drilling its first drillhole since it moved up into the next geological layer, dubbed the sulfate unit. Because of this they have been using the rover’s cameras to take a lot of pictures of the surrounding terrain, including several high resolution mosaics.
The two overview maps below show what the cool image above is looking at.
Click for interactive map.
The yellow lines on both maps indicate approximately what is seen in the cropped image above. The white line shows the additional area covered by the full uncropped photo.
What drew me to this photo was the striking mesa sticking up in the midst of the dune field that Curiosity has been circling for the past year. I estimate it is about 100 feet high, and appears quite dramatic on that flat sea of sand dunes.
The image also gives us a sense of how far Curiosity has now climbed since it landed on the floor of Gale Crater. I estimate it has now gained about 5,000 feet of the 14,000 feet it needs to climb to get the the peak of Mount Sharp.
The distant mountains are Gale Crater’s northern rim. In the full image you can see the gap into Peace Valley, one of the major gaps in the rim of the crater, and thought to have been a major inlet when the crater floor was covered in either water or ice.
The cool image however expresses the alienness of this terrain. While someone from the American southwest might think it looks familiar, a closer look always proves otherwise. There is no visible life here. The surface is barren, and formed by inanimate geology with no modifications of any kind from plant or animal life.
Someday, in the far future, I hope humans will change this view, and make it bloom with life.
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