NASA’s Curiosity rover took such remarkable images from the Red Planet, it left members of the mission team “stunned”.
NASA’s Curiosity rover captured such remarkable images from Mars — it left members of the mission team “stunned”.
This year marks 10 years since the rover made its way onto the Red Planet, and what a way to celebrate its decade-long anniversary then by sending back spectacular images it snapped on the side of Mars’ Mount Sharp.
On November 16, 2021 — the 3,299th Martian day, or sol, of the mission — it was tasked to take two sets of mosaics, or composite images — one at 8.30am and the other at 4.10pm, local Mars time.
The two times of day provided contrasting lighting conditions that brought out a variety of landscape details that the mission team couldn’t help but combine.
The group of engineers were so inspired by the beauty of the landscape, they combined two versions of the black-and-white images and added colours “to create a rare postcard from the Red Planet”.
“Curiosity captures a 360-degree view of its surroundings with its black-and-white navigation cameras each time it completes a drive,” NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who lead the mission, said in a statement.
“To make the resulting panorama easier to send to Earth, the rover keeps it in a compressed, low-quality format.”
However, when the rover team saw the view from Curiosity’s most recent stopping point, JPL said the scene was just too pretty not to capture it in the highest quality that the navigation cameras are capable of.
“Many of the rover’s most stunning panoramas are from the colour Mastcam instrument, which has far higher resolution than the navigation cameras. That’s why the team added colours of their own to this latest image,” it stated.
“The blue, orange, and green tints are not what the human eye would see; instead, they represent the scene as viewed at different times of day.”
NASA shared an image of the rare postcard with its 71.5 million Instagram followers on Saturday, leaving thousands in awe.
“Amazing,” one person wrote.
“Wow it looks like Earth,” said another, while a third added: “Wow it’s unbelievable.”
At the centre of the image is the view back down Mount Sharp, or Aeolis Mons, a mountain that forms the central peak of Gale Crater.
Curiosity has been driving up the 5km tall mountain since 2014.
Rounded hills can be also seen in the distance at centre-right, while the at the far right of the panorama is the craggy ‘Rafael Navarro Mountain’ — named after a Curiosity team scientist who died earlier this year.
Mount Sharp lies inside Gale Crater, a 154km wide basin formed by an ancient impact.