Curiosity rover spotted by Mars orbiter


Posted: January 11, 2014

A high-resolution camera mounted on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has collected imagery showing the Curiosity rover's trek across Gale Crater toward a three-mile-high mountain.

Scientists often use the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera to study the red planet's evolving geology, detecting intermittent water percolating to the Martian surface, mapping the planet's craters, mountains and canyons, and surveying landing sites for future missions.

HiRISE has also periodically imaged spacecraft already on Mars, including Curiosity, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and the Phoenix lander after it arrived in 2008.

The camera, the highest-resolution imager ever put in orbit around Mars, is operated by scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The newest imagery was taken Dec. 11, showing the rover's tracks zigzagging around obstacles and steep slopes. The rover itself is visible in the lower-left part of the black-and-white picture.

After touching down inside Gale Crater in August 2012 and exploring nearby rocks and an ancient riverbed, Curiosity is driving to the foothills of Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high peak where researchers hope to find layered terrain that might tell them about the planet's warmer, wetter past when life may have thrived on Mars.

The rover is expected to arrive at the base of the mountain some time in mid-2014.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

See larger version. Curiosity's tracks are visible in this color image.

See larger version. The rover is visible in the lower-left part of the image just above and to the left of the dark feature.

Expedition 29 Patch
Space models