Thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the HiRISE camera, we have an orbital view of Dingo Gap, an opening between two low scarps which is spanned by a single dune. This gap and dune are visible both from the ground and from orbit. The Curiosity Mars rover has now crossed the gap and is continuing its travels toward enticing science destinations, including interesting veins and mineral fractures.
In the orbital image from HiRISE, the rover itself is not in this image as it was acquired before MSL landed. However, the imagery was likely used to help the rover team decide on the way to travel.
Below are more images of Dingo gap before and after the rover plowed its way through the sand.
Curiosity’s view to valley beyond after crossing over ‘Dingo Gap’ sand dune. This photomosaic was taken after Curiosity drove over the 1 meter tall Dingo Gap sand dune and shows dramatic scenery in the valley beyond, back dropped by eroded rim of Gale Crater. Assembled from navigation camera (navcam) raw images from Sol 535 (Feb. 6, 2104) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo
Curiosity scans Moonlight Valley beyond Dingo Gap Dune.
Curiosity’s view to “Moonlight Valley” beyond after crossing over ‘Dingo Gap’ sand dune. This photomosaic was taken after Curiosity drove over the 1 meter tall Dingo Gap sand dune and shows dramatic scenery in the valley beyond, back dropped by eroded rim of Gale Crater. Assembled from navigation camera (navcam) raw images from Sol 535 (Feb. 6, 2104) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo
See below more before/after Dingo Gap imagery
NASA’s Curiosity mega rover has successfully crossed over the ‘Dingo Gap’ sand dune- opening the gateway to the science rich targets in the “Moonlight Valley” and Martian mountain beyond.
“I’m over the moon that I’m over the dune! I successfully crossed the “Dingo Gap” sand dune on Mars,” Curiosity tweeted overnight Thursday.
“Moonlight Valley” is the name of the breathtaking new locale beyond Dingo, Curiosity Principal Investigator John Grotzinger, of Caltech, told Universe Today.
Curiosity drove westward over the 1 meter ( 3 foot) tall Dingo Gap dune in stellar style on Thursday, Feb. 6, on Sol 535.
Dramatic before and after photos reveal that the rover passed over the Red Planet dune without difficulty. They also show some interesting veins and mineral fractures are visible in the vicinity just ahead.
“Moonlight Valley has got lots of veins cutting through it,” Grotzinger told me.
“We’re seeing recessive bedrock.”
The Martian dune lies between two low scarps sitting at the north and south ends.
“The rover successfully traversed the dune in Dingo Gap,” wrote science team member Ken Herkenhoff in an update.
“The data look good.”
Since arriving at the picturesque “Dingo Gap” sand dune about a week ago, Curiosity’s handlers had pondered whether to breach the dune as an alternate pathway into the smoother terrain of the valley beyond as a work around to avoid fields of rough rocks that have been ripping holes into the robots six aluminum wheels in recent months.
“We’re guessing it will be softer on the wheels,” Grotzinger informed me.
Before giving the go ahead to move forward, engineers took a few days to carefully assess the dune’s integrity and physical characteristics with the rovers science instruments and cameras to insure there wasn’t the potential to get irretrievably stuck in a deep sand trap.
The team even commanded Curiosity to carry out a toe dip by gently rolling the 20 inch (50 cm) diameter wheels back and forth over the crest on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to insure it was safe to mount.
They won’t take any chances with safety, recalling that rover Spirit’s demise occurred when she because mired in a hidden sand trap in 2010 from which there was ultimately no escape. She froze to death during the bitter Martin winter – more than 6 years into her 90 day mission.
Opportunity also got wedged at the seemingly endless dune field at “Purgatory Dune”, that nearly doomed her early in the now decade long trek. Engineers spent weeks on the extrication effort.
Since last summer, Curiosity has been traveling on a southwestward route to the breathtaking foothills of Mount Sharp, her ultimate science destination.
The westward route though Dingo will soon lead Curiosity to a spot dubbed “KMS-9” where the team hopes to conduct the first rock drilling operations since departing the Yellowknife Bay quadrant in July 2013, into areas of intriguing bedrock.
“At KMS-9, we see three terrain types exposed and a relatively dust-free surface,” said science team collaborator Katie Stack of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
The missions science focus has shifted to “search for that subset of habitable environments which also preserves organic carbon,” says Curiosity Principal Investigator John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
But first, with the dune now safely in the rear view mirror, the team plans a busy weekend of research activities.
A big science program using the X-Ray spectrometer and high resolution MAHLI camera on the robotic arm is already planned for this weekend.
“The arm will be deployed to investigate some interesting veins or minerals filling fractures in front of the rover,” says Herkenhoff.
“ChemCam will search for frost early on the morning of Sol 538 (Saturday), then analyze targets Collett and Mussell along the vein/fracture fill later in the day.”
Thereafter Curiosity will continue on its journey across the floor of Gale Crater, taking images and atmospheric measurements along the way to the sedimentary layers at the base of Mount Sharp.
Curiosity has already accomplished her primary goal of discovering a habitable zone on Mars that could support Martian microbes if they ever existed.
And be sure to check out Curiosity’s first ever image of Earth from Mars in my new story – here.
To date Curiosity’s odometer stands at nearly 5 kilometers and she has taken over 118,000 images.
The robot has about another 5 km to go to reach Mount Sharp.
You are here! – As an Evening Star in the Martian Sky
This evening-sky view taken by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows the Earth and Earth’s moon as seen on Jan. 31, 2014, or Sol 529 shortly after sunset at the Dingo Gap inside Gale Crater.
See more imagery of the Earth and Moon below!
18 months into her mission to discover a habitable zone on the Red Planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover has at last looked back to the inhabited zone of all humanity and snapped her 1st image of all 7 Billion Earthlings living on the Home Planet.
“Look Back in Wonder… My first picture of Earth from the surface of Mars,” tweeted Curiosity today.
You are there! See yourselves in the spectacular imagery from the Red Planet’s surface at the ‘Dingo Gap’ inside Gale Crater – above and below.
Car sized Curiosity captured the evocative image of Earth as an evening star in the Martian sky just days ago on Jan. 31, 2014, or Sol 529, some 80 minutes after sunset.
And what’s more is that the evening sky view even includes the Earth’s Moon!
Earth shines brilliantly as the brightest beacon in the Martian twilight sky view taken from the 1 ton rovers current location at the edge of a sand dune dubbed the ‘Dingo Gap.’
“A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars,” said NASA in a statement issued today.
Curiosity used both of her high resolution mast mounted color cameras to collect a series of Earth/Moon images flittering across the Martian sky.
Processing has removed the numerous cosmic ray strikes – see raw image below.
Right now Curiosity’s handlers are pondering whether to climb over the 1 meter tall sand dune and cross into the smooth terrain of the valley beyond the ‘Dingo Gap’ – as an alternate path to minimize damaging encounters with sharp edged Martian rocks that are puncturing holes and ripping tears into the robots six wheels.
To be clear, these are not the first images of the Earth from Mars orbit or Mars surface.