“Say ‘cheese’!” NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has snapped a dusty but very cool selfie earlier this week.
The space vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, and landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. The rover has been on the job for 2,228 days (a little over six years). Its mission is to investigate Martian climate and geology among other scientific tasks.
In the recent panorama released by the U.S. space agency, a thin layer of dust is visible on the Curiosity. It is the result of a storm that enveloped Mars this summer. The darkish sky indicates dust still clogging the atmosphere in late August. That’s when Curiosity’s mast camera shot the image. The rover had just drilled down into Mars’ gravelly surface for a new rock sample.
Curiosity has been tweeting about its adventures in outer space: “Dust in the wind . . . and on my deck” the rover noted. Then @MarsCuriosity invited earthlings to explore the surface of Mars along with the rover in a new 360 panoramic video on YouTube.
Curiosity runs on nuclear power. Therefore, lack of sunlight doesn’t affect it on Mars. However, NASA’s older rover Opportunity does rely on solar power. That vehicle has been silent since June. That’s when a sandstorm forced it to shut down. Opportunity had been working since January, 2004—about 14 and half years beyond its designed lifespan.
Flight controllers hope that as the Martian sky continues to clear, Opportunity will make contact with its Earth-bound handlers. But after almost 15 years exploring the so-called red planet, Opportunity may just not have the strength—or the ability—for a comeback.
(AP Photo: Composite image from August 9, 2018. Photos from NASA shows the Curiosity rover at Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars.)