Best photos of Mars by Rover Curiosity

Curiosity self portrait

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013).The rover is positioned at a patch of flat outcrop called “John Klein,” which was selected as the site for the first rock-drilling activities by Curiosity. The self-portrait was acquired to document the drilling site. The rover’s robotic arm is not visible in the mosaic. MAHLI, which took the component images for this mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images or portions of images used in the mosaic.

wall of gale crater
This color image from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows part of the wall of Gale Crater, the location on Mars where the rover landed on Aug. 5, 2012 PDT. This is part of a larger, high-resolution color mosaic made from images obtained by Curiosity’s Mast Camera. This image of the crater wall is north of the landing site, or behind the rover. Here, a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system – one relating to a river or stream — from the surface of Mars. Known and studied since the 1970s beginning with NASA’s Viking missions, such networks date from a period in Martian history when water flowed freely across the surface. The main channel deposit seen here resembles a dirt road ascending into the mountains, which are actually the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. Although Curiosity is about 11 miles (18 kilometers) away from this area and the view is obscured somewhat by dust and haze, the image provides new insights into the style of sediment transport within this system.

presidents signature on board curiosity
This view of Curiosity’s deck shows a plaque bearing several signatures of US officials, including that of President Obama and Vice President Biden. The image was taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the rover’s 44th Martian day, or sol, on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). The plaque is located on the front left side of the rover’s deck. The rectangular plaque is made of anodized aluminum and measures 3.94 inches (100 millimeters) tall by 3.23 inches (82 millimeters) wide. The plaque was affixed to the rover’s deck with four bolts. Similar plaques with signatures – including those of the sitting president and vice-president — adorn the lander platforms for NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on Mars in January of 2004. An image from Spirit’s plaque can be found at: The main purpose of Curiosity’s MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover’s Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity, providing versatility for other uses, such as views of the rover itself from different angles.

curiosity tread tire tracks on mars
This image shows a close-up of track marks from the first test drive of NASA’s Curiosity rover. The rover’s arm is visible in the foreground. A close inspection of the tracks reveals a unique, repeating pattern: Morse code for JPL. This pattern, visible as straight bands across the zigzag track marks, can be used as a visual reference to help the rover drive accurately. Curiosity’s “visual odometry” software measures terrain features — such as rocks, rock shadows and patterns in the rover tracks — to determine the precise distance between drive steps. Knowing how far it has traveled is important for measuring any wheel slippage that may have occurred, for instance due to high slopes or sandy ground. Fine-grained terrains generally lack interesting features, so Curiosity can make its own features using its wheel tracks. The Morse code, imprinted on all six wheels, is: .— (J), .–. (P), and .-.. (L). JPL is short for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover was built and the mission is managed.
curiosity rover tread tire tracks on mars
This image shows the tracks left by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Aug. 22, 2012, as it completed its first test drive on Mars. The rover went forward 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotated 120 degrees and then reversed 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). This image was taken by a front Hazard-Avoidance camera, which has a fisheye lens.

curiosity rover mars mastcam
This image is from a series of test images to calibrate the 34-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover. It was taken on Aug. 23, 2012 and looks south-southwest from the rover’s landing site. The gravelly area around Curiosity’s landing site is visible in the foreground. Farther away, about a third of the way up from the bottom of the image, the terrain falls off into a depression (a swale). Beyond the swale, in the middle of the image, is the boulder-strewn, red-brown rim of a moderately-sized impact crater. Farther off in the distance, there are dark dunes and then the layered rock at the base of Mount Sharp. Some haze obscures the view, but the top ridge, depicted in this image, is 10 miles (16.2 kilometers) away. Scientists enhanced the color in one version to show the Martian scene under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.

mars rocknest sol 52 curiosity
This patch of windblown sand and dust downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the “Rocknest” site, which has been selected as the likely location for first use of the scoop on the arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. This view is a mosaic of images taken by the telephoto right-eye camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 52nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Sept. 28, 2012), four sols before the rover arrived at Rocknest. The Rocknest patch is about 8 feet by 16 feet (1.5 meters by 5 meters). Scientists white-balanced the color in this view to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.

mars curiosity debris on ground
This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows a small bright object on the ground beside the rover at the “Rocknest” site. The object is just below the center of this image. It is about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long. The rover team has assessed this object as debris from the spacecraft, possibly from the events of landing on Mars. The image was taken during the mission’s 65th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 11, 2012).

snake river rock feature on mars curisioty rover
The sinuous rock feature in the lower center of this mosaic of images recorded by the NASA Mars rover Curiosity is called “Snake River.” The images in the mosaic were taken by Curiosity’s Navigation Camera during the 133rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (Dec. 20, 2012). On Sol 147 (Jan. 3, 2013), Curiosity drove about 10 feet (3 meters) to get a closer look at Snake River before proceeding to other nearby rocks.

martian rock rocknest curiosity rover
This view of a Martian rock called “Rocknest 3” combines four images taken by the right-eye camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument, which has a telephoto, 100-millimeter-focal-length lens. The component images were taken a few minutes after Martian noon on the 59th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s operations on Mars (evening of Oct. 5, 2012, PDT). Rocknest 3 is a rock approximately 15 inches (40 centimeters) long and 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall, next to the “Rocknest” patch of windblown dust and sand where Curiosity scooped and analyzed soil samples. The Mastcam was about 13 feet (4 meters) from the rock when the component images were taken, providing an image scale of about 0.01 inch (0.3 millimeter) per pixel. The image has been white-balanced to show what the rock would look like if it were on Earth.

ourtock shaler gleneg mars curiosity
The NASA Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission’s 120th Martian day, or sol (Dec. 7, 2012), to record this view of a rock outcrop informally named “Shaler.” The outcrop’s striking layers, some at angles to each other in a pattern called crossbedding, made it a target of interest for the mission’s science team. The site is near where three types of terrain meet at a place called “Glenelg,” inside Gale Crater. The area covered by the image spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) in the foreground. Figure 1 includes a 10-centimeter (4-inch) scale bar. The image has been white-balanced to show what the rock would look like if it were on Earth.

curiosity rover extended camera mars
This full-resolution image from NASA’s Curiosity shows the turret of tools at the end of the rover’s extended robotic arm on Aug. 20, 2012. The Navigation Camera captured this view.

close up brushed area mars rover
This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows details of rock texture and color in an area where the rover’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT) brushed away dust that was on the rock. This rock target, “Ekwir_1” was brushed and this image was recorded on the same Martian day, or sol, Sol 150 of Curiosity’s mission on Mars (Jan. 6, 2013.) The image, one of the highest resolution images returned so far by MAHLI, was taken from a distance of about 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) from the rock’s surface. Fractures, white veins, pits and tiny dark grains in the rock are visible, as well as remaining clumps and specks of dust. The scale bar at lower left is 2 millimeters (0.08 inches).

curiosity drilled hole mars
At the center of this image from NASA’s Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called “John Klein” where the rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars. The drilling took place on Feb. 8, 2013, or Sol 182, Curiosity’s 182nd Martian day of operations. Several preparatory activities with the drill preceded this operation, including a test that produced the shallower hole on the right two days earlier, but the deeper hole resulted from the first use of the drill for rock sample collection. The sample-collection hole is 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep. The “mini drill” test hole near it is the same diameter, with a depth of 0.8 inch (2 centimeters).

curiosity rover sample mars
This image from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover’s drill. The image was taken after the sample was transferred from the drill to the rover’s scoop. In planned subsequent steps, the sample will be was sieved, and portions of it delivered to the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument. The scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide. The image was obtained by Curiosity’s Mast Camera on Feb. 20, or Sol 193, Curiosity’s 193rd Martian day of operations. The image has been white-balanced to show what the sample would look like if it were on Earth.
The gray-green powder seen in the white-balanced version is from the rock called “John Klein.” Red residue clinging to the scoop walls is from a sample collected earlier from a drift of windblown dust and sand called “Rocknest.” The differing colors between the residue from Rocknest and the drill powder from John Klein reflect the oxidation state of iron in the samples. The John Klein powder is less oxidized and therefore has a higher potential to preserve organic compounds, if they were originally present.

curiosity mars rover background mountains
These are the first full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA’s Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover’s “head” or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover’s descent stage thrusters.


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