The Mars Curiosity rover recently had the opportunity to pause for a moment and look back over its life's work. NASA invites us to admire the view, too, with a panoramic scene showing most of the rover's 11-mile (18-kilometer) path across the rocky landscape of the Gale Crater.
Curiosity touched down in the crater in 2012. The rover is currently investigating Mount Sharp, a mountain in the middle. It snapped the images used in the panoramic vista several months ago from a vantage point called Vera Rubin Ridge. Vera Rubin was an influential American astronomer who studied dark matter.
Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada says the skies cleared up during the Martian winter, allowing Curiosity to capture some sharp images. You can even see the top of a hill that's 50 miles (80 kilometers) away outside of the crater.
Follow Vasavada's narration of the vista in this NASA video and see a visualization of the rover's tracks:
"Even though Curiosity has been steadily climbing for five years, this is the first time we could look back and see the whole mission laid out below us," says Vasavada.
The panorama is made up of 16 images from the rover's mast camera. NASA researchers processed the images to make it appear as it would under daylight conditions on Earth. You can see parts of Mount Sharp, dark dunes, rocky buttes and a now-dry stream bed cutting down the crater's rim.
The whole panorama is big and impressive, so you will probably want to open it on a decent-size screen and enjoy diving into its details. NASA also provided an annotated version of the vista to help you put it all into perspective.
The Curiosity rover has come a long way, but there's still much more to do. NASA says it will soon put the rover's drill back into operation to acquire fresh powdered rock samples for inspection.
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