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Though the view has not changed much since early October, when I last posted a Curiosity navigation image looking out across Gale Crater from the present heights of Mount Sharp, today’s image above, taken on November 8, 2023, sol 4001 since the rover landed on Mars, signals the beginning of the monthlong solar conjunction, when all communications with Mars is blocked because the Sun has moved between the Earth and the Red Planet.
Solar conjunction occurs every two years, with this being the sixth conjunction experienced by Curiosity. It officially began on November 6th and is expected to end around November 29th. The picture above however was obtained two days into that conjuction, and is unusual in that it does not have the large drop-outs now seen in many other images taken then, both from Curiosity and Perseverance. We should expect there to be very few additional images before the end of November.
The blue dot in the overview map to the right shows Curiosity’s present position, with the yellow lines indicating roughly the area covered by the picture above. The crater rim is about 20 to 25 miles away, with the peak of Mount Sharp about the same distance away in the opposite direction. The rover has climbed about 2,500 feet, but it still sits about 13,000 feet below the mountain’s peak. Though the photo encompasses Curiosity’s entire route since landing, most of it is out of sight, the lower flanks of Mount Sharp blocking our view.
On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
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