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Curiosity Rover pauses mid-drive and captures Spectacular Martian Mountain Snapshot

Martian landscape scene with rows of striated rocks in the foreground and Mount Sharp on the horizon. NASA's Curiosity Mars rover paused mid drive at the Junda outcrop to snap the images for this navcam camera photomosaic on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) and then continued traveling southwards towards mountain base.    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Mars rock rows and Spectacular Mount Sharp
Martian landscape scene with rows of striated rocks in the foreground and spectacular Mount Sharp on the horizon. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover paused mid drive at the Junda outcrop to snap the component images for this colorized navcam camera photomosaic on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) and then continued traveling southwards towards mountain base. UHF Antenna at right.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com
See stereo 3-D and look back views below

Like any good tourist, NASA’s rover Curiosity apparently couldn’t resist the photobug urge from a gorgeous Martian mountain scene she happened by recently and decided to pull over and enjoy the view.

So she stopped the dune buggy mid-drive on the sandy road to her daily destination one Sol last week on Feb. 19, powered up the camera suite and excitedly snapped a spectacular landscape view of a striated rock field dramatically back dropped by towering Mount Sharp on the horizon.

See our Mars rocks and Mount Sharp photomosaic above and a 3-D stereoscopic view from NASA below.

The sedimentary foothills of Mount Sharp, which reaches 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky, is the 1 ton robots ultimate destination inside Gale Crater because it holds caches of water altered minerals.

Martian Landscape With Rock Rows and Mount Sharp (Stereo)  This stereo landscape scene from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 19, 2014 shows rows of rocks in the foreground and Mount Sharp on the horizon. It appears three dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red lens on the left. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Martian Landscape With Rock Rows and Mount Sharp (Stereo) This stereo landscape scene from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 19, 2014 shows rows of rocks in the foreground and Mount Sharp on the horizon. It appears three dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red lens on the left. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

And just for good measure, Curiosity also snapped a series of breathtaking look back photos showing her tracks in the dune filled terrain from whence she came since straddling through the Dingo Gap gateway. See our mosaics below.

The panoramic mountain view taken on Sol 548 shows rows of striated rocks all oriented in a similar direction in the foreground with Mount Sharp in the background.

Curiosity looks back across dune field to  her wheel tracks and a small crater she just missed. Flattened rear hazcam image, colorized from Sol 555 (Feb 27, 2014).    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Curiosity looks back across dune field to her wheel tracks and a small crater she just missed. Flattened rear hazcam image, colorized from Sol 555 (Feb 27, 2014). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Scientists directed Curiosity to drive by the rock rows nicknamed “Junda” after their interest was piqued by orbital images taken by the powerful telescopic camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) circling overhead.

The six wheeled rover paused during the planned Feb. 19 drive of 328 feet (100 meters) to capture the imagery.

She then pushed forward to finish the day’s drive and snapped another fabulous look back view – see our mosaic below.

And the next day on Feb. 20 (Sol 549), she also completed her second 100 meter drive in reverse.

Her handlers are occasionally commanding Curiosity to drive backwards in a newly tested bid to minimize serious damage to the six 20 inch diameter wheels in the form of rips and tears caused by rough edged Red Planet rocks – see our wheel mosaic below.

Curiosity looks back at Martian sand dunes and rover tracks after passing by Junda outcrop (right) on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) with Gale Crater rim and Mount Sharp on the distant horizon. Navcam colorized photomosaic. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity looks back at Martian sand dunes and rover tracks after passing by Junda outcrop (right) on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) with Gale Crater rim and Mount Sharp on the distant horizon. Navcam colorized photomosaic. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity is well on the way to her next near term goal, which is a science waypoint, named Kimberly (formerly called KMS-9), which lies about half a mile ahead.

Kimberly is of interest to the science team because it sits at an the intersection of different rock layers and also features ground with striations like those at “Junda”.

Curiosity looks back eastward to ‘Dingo Gap’ sand dune inside Gale Crater. After crossing over the 3 foot (1 meter) tall dune on Sol 539, Feb. 9, 2014  the rover drove westward into the ‘Moonlight Valley’.  The parallel rover wheel tracks are 9 feet (2.7 meters) apart.  Assembled from Sol 539 colorized navcam raw images.  Credit: NASA/JPL/ Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity looks back eastward to ‘Dingo Gap’ sand dune inside Gale Crater. After crossing over the 3 foot (1 meter) tall dune on Sol 539, Feb. 9, 2014 the rover drove westward into the ‘Moonlight Valley’. The parallel rover wheel tracks are 9 feet (2.7 meters) apart. Assembled from Sol 539 colorized navcam raw images. Credit: NASA/JPL/ Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

So, after the rover reaches Kimberly, researchers plan to temporarily halt driving for awhile to investigate the location and direct the robot to drill into another rock to collect samples for analysis by the two state- of-the -art chemistry labs.

If drilling is warranted, Kimberly would be the site of Curiosity’s first drilling operation since the Cumberland outcrop target was bored into during the spring of 2013 at Yellowknife Bay.

Curiosity departed the Yellowknife Bay region in July 2013 where she discovered a habitable zone and thereby accomplished the primary goal of the mission.

To date Curiosity’s odometer stands at 5.3 kilometers and she has taken over 125,000 images.

The robot has somewhat less than another 5 km to go to reach the base of Mount Sharp.

She perhaps may arrive sometime in mid 2014.

Arrival time at Mount Sharp depends on driving speed and whether the upcoming terrain is smoother or strewn with sharp edged rocks that have hindered progress due to accumulating wear and tear on the aluminum wheels.

Up close photomosaic view shows lengthy tear in rover Curiosity’s left front wheel caused by recent driving over sharp edged Martian rocks on the months long trek to Mount Sharp. Raw images taken by the MAHLI camera on Curiosity’s arm on Jan. 31, 2014 (Sol 529) were assembled to show some recent damage to several of its six wheels   Credit: NASA / JPL / MSSS / Marco Di Lorenzo / Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com  See below complete 6 wheel mosaic and further wheel mosaics for comparison

Up close photomosaic view shows lengthy tear in rover Curiosity’s left front wheel caused by recent driving over sharp edged Martian rocks on the months long trek to Mount Sharp. Raw images taken by the MAHLI camera on Curiosity’s arm on Jan. 31, 2014 (Sol 529) were assembled to show some recent damage to several of its six wheels Credit: NASA / JPL / MSSS / Marco Di Lorenzo / Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com See below complete 6 wheel mosaic and further wheel mosaics for comparison

Meanwhile, NASA’s sister Opportunity rover is exploring clay mineral outcrops by the summit of Solander Point on the opposite side of Mars at the start of her 2nd Decade investigating the Red Planet’s mysteries.

A pair of new orbiters are streaking to the Red Planet to fortify Earth’s invasion fleet- NASA’s MAVEN and India’s MOM.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Curiosity, Opportunity, Chang’e-3, GPM, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news. Learn more at Ken’s upcoming presentations at the NEAF convention on April 12/13.

Ken Kremer

Curiosity’s View Past Tall Dune at edge of ‘Dingo Gap’  This photomosaic from Curiosity’s Navigation Camera (Navcam) taken at the edge of the entrance to the Dingo Gap shows a 3 foot (1 meter) tall dune and valley terrain beyond to the west, all dramatically back dropped by eroded rim of Gale Crater. View from the rover’s current position on Sol 528 (Jan. 30, 2014). The rover team may decide soon whether Curiosity will bridge the dune gap as a smoother path to next science destination. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

Curiosity’s View Past Tall Dune at edge of ‘Dingo Gap’
This photomosaic from Curiosity’s Navigation Camera (Navcam) taken at the edge of the entrance to the Dingo Gap shows a 3 foot (1 meter) tall dune and valley terrain beyond to the west, all dramatically back dropped by eroded rim of Gale Crater. View from the rover’s current position on Sol 528 (Jan. 30, 2014). The rover team may decide soon whether Curiosity will bridge the dune gap as a smoother path to next science destination. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Daniel Rey M. March 2, 2014, 7:48 AM

    The first photograph shows all that’s left of the royal road leading to the palace with 33 levels built under the hill in the background. Start digging horizontally at ground level on the eastern side of the hill and you will come to the Golden Gate. Press the orange button on the right, then the red one, in order to open it. If the second button is not pressed then anyone standing before the gate will be zapped to death.

  • hugopacilio March 2, 2014, 8:47 AM

    I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CARE WHEELS, COME AFTER WORK OF SCIENCE DAILY, MUST CARE FOR WHEELS STILL NOT ARRIVED AT THE ENTRANCE TO MOUNT SHARP, CONGRATULATIONS ON PART OF MY DAILY WORK PERFORMED.

    • Daniel Rey M. March 2, 2014, 9:49 AM

      By “the entrance to Mt. Sharp” do you mean the entrance to the underground structure? Yes, the wheels can break down, but the greatest risk has to do with the powerful and still functional water-jet traps surrounding the hill because the diameter of the tubes is about ten times larger than that of the spout at the Lake of Geneva and they can send something as big as an ocean liner up in the air.

  • RUF March 2, 2014, 2:14 PM

    I don’t seem to be able to make sense of these posts…
    I was shocked to hear that Curiosity is a “she” and not an “it.”

    • hal9000 March 3, 2014, 7:55 AM

      A ship, a rocket, a spacecraft or a rover is a “she”.

  • Aqua4U March 2, 2014, 5:10 PM

    Thanks for the weekend Mars Curiosity update Ken.. every one of these has been a gem!

    How hard is it to stitch together images? Every time I go into the MSL raw images page and D/L mastcam images I think about stitching em together in Photoshop. Is that the best of Curiosity’s camera’s to do that with? Or are 50mm views best? If so, is that somehow correctable into 50mm perspective?

    Dang… Just went back and looked at that 3D R/B image and have to say… WOW! Q: How much of the curvature seen in the sedimentary layers/units in front of the rover are an artifact of lens focal length?

    • Ken Kremer March 3, 2014, 8:04 PM

      thanks. foreground parallax issues are everpresent

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