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Looking down a canyon on Mars

Looking down a canyon on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right was taken on June 17, 2023 by Curiosity’s high resolution camera, looking back down Gediz Vallis and out across the distant floor of Gale Crater, far below. The white dotted line shows the route within this image where Curiosity had previously traveled inside this canyon, coming up around that shadowed mesa and then off to the west to try to get to terrain that it had earlier retreated because it was too rough on the rover’s wheels. Its subsequent path to the spot where this picture was taken was off to the left of the image, out of view.

This picture illustrates well the steepness and roughness of the mountainous canyon through which Curiosity presently travels. The small mountains visible on the floor of Gale Crater, about sixteen miles away, are no more than 450 feet high. The floor of the crater is 1,900 feet below where Curiosity present sits.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

The blue dot on the overview map to the right marks Curiosity’s present position. The yellow lines indicate the approximate area covered by the picture above. The red dotted line marks its planned route, with the white dotted line indicated the route it actually took.

The science team had been trying to climb due south up a very steep slope, but kept finding the terrain too difficult for the rover. Each day it would be forced to abort its planned travel because either there were rocks in the way, or the ground was too steep. For this reason the team decided to turn east, working upward along the contour of the terrain. Though the distance traveled each day continues to be small so as to avoid the numerous rocks on the ground, this new approach has had some success.

This picture was taken for several reasons. It provides another view of the rocky sedimentary layers in Chenapua on the left. It also helps assess the amount of dust in the atmosphere by looking at how much haze obscures the rim, 20 to 30 miles away.

But most of all, though in their research papers the scientists will never admit it, it provides us a glimpse at the spectacular view you would see while hiking up this mountain on Mars.

Genesis cover

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.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


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