Mars orbiter snaps Curiosity and tracks from far above

Get a rare perspective on the Curiosity rover's travels across a distant planet with a fascinating image snapped by NASA's Mars orbiter.

Image of Curiosity from orbiter
The orbiter looks down on the rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Two human-made objects, far from home, shared a passing moment recently as the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter looked down and took a photo of the Curiosity rover and the tracks it has left across the surface of the Red Planet.

Captured on April 11, the image is an unusual perspective on the rover's mission. If you look carefully, you can trace its driving patterns as it adjusts to avoid large obstacles in the Martian landscape. The rover itself is no more than a small dark spot in the image, obviously out of place in its surroundings.

The image was taken with the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, known as "HiRISE." The color of the image has been enhanced to better show the landscape features. It also makes the rover appear bluer in color than it really is.

The photo shows where the rover sits as it looks out over a 16-foot-high butte called Mount Remarkable. This area may be chosen as the site of Curiosity's third rock analysis. There are hopes that in this area the rover could find evidence of organic material, a result described as "the holy grail of Mars exploration."

The image below comes from Curiosity itself, showing what the rover was looking at as the orbiter passed above. It includes Mount Remarkable, straight ahead in the distance, and was taken using the navigation camera. Plans are to drive Curiosity to the base of the butte for a fresh round of investigations into the environment of Mars.

Curiosity rover view of a butte
Curiosity rover looks at a butte ahead. NASA/JPL-Caltech

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