NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Sends Home Spectacular Panorama

NASA's Curiosity rover | NASA handout via Reuters

NASA's Curiosity rover | NASA handout via Reuters

The scene includes much of the rover's route since its 2012 landing as well as features located up to about 50 miles away.

While it looks like the rover possesses a selfie stick, NASA actually had to stitch together dozens of images taken on January 23 by the rover's Mars Hands Lens Imager camera.

Mastcam captured the images just before Mars' northern hemisphere winter solstice while the one-ton rover was paused at Vera Rubin Ridge, 1,073 feet (327 meters) above its landing site, taking advantage of seasonal clear skies.

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That's where, in 2013, the mission found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment that offered all of the basic chemical ingredients for microbial life.

Mount Sharp is a 3-mile-high (almost 5 kilometers) mountain in the middle of the expansive Gale Crater.

"From our perch on Vera Rubin Ridge, the vast plains of the crater floor stretch out to the spectacular mountain range that forms the northern rim of Gale Crater", Vasavada said. Mastcam captured another series of images from its current location over the last few days, which mission members will use to produce another panorama looking upward and southward at the region Curiosity will next visit.

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The team is preparing to resume use of Curiosity's drill for acquiring powdered rock samples to be analysed by laboratory instruments inside the rover, more than a year after the most recent of the 15 times the drill has pulled sample material from Martian rocks, NASA said.

MAVEN is not the primary vehicle for transmitting Curiosity data back to Earth, as it is in an elliptical orbit that often puts it too far from the rover to accomplish this.

NASA released this self-portrait of its Curiosity rover on January 31, 2018. Literally. From its perch on a ridge partway up Mount Sharp, Curiosity has snapped a panorama of Gale Crater, capturing numerous geological features the rover has explored and investigated over the years. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University's Astronomy Online program. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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