Curiosity Captures Gorgeous 360 Panorama of ‘Rock Hall’

Curiosity’s 360 panorama of ‘Rock
Hall’
: This panorama from
the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken on Dec. 19
(Sol 2265). The rover’s last drill location on Vera Rubin Ridge is visible, as
well as the clay region it will spend the next year exploring. Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–27 March 2019


CAPE CANAVERAL,
FL – NASA’s Curiosity rover captured a gorgeous 360 degree color panorama of ‘Vera
Rubin Ridge’ with arm raised high showing where she spent more than a year
exploring and drilling into Mars at the base Mount Sharp and where  she will spend the forthcoming year in her
ongoing quest to search for signs of life.



The car sized
rover has now recently moved on from Vera Rubin Ridge to her new Red Planet home and next
area of investigation – previously dubbed the ‘clay-bearing unit’ and now renamed
‘Glen Torridon’.



The immense, high
resolution ‘Rock Hall’ panorama was created from raw images  taken on Dec. 19,
2018 (Sol 2265) by the robots color Mast Camera (Mastcam).



The
360 pano spans a breathtaking view across the Martian surface inside the floor
of Gale Crater showing the rover’s last drill location at ‘Rock Hall’ on Vera
Rubin Ridge as well as ‘Glen Torridon’ – the clay
region she will spend the next year exploring.



The
scene combines 122 images taken with Mastcam’s left-eye camera and was
released by the rovers handlers. 



Rock
Hall counts as Curiosity’s 19th drill site in Gale Crater.



‘Glen Torridon’ sits in a trough just south of the ridge. Clay minerals in this
unit may hold more clues about the ancient lakes that helped form the lower
levels on Mount Sharp.
NASA’s Curiosity rover departs Vera Rubin
Ridge and head towards the next exploration site called the Clay Bearing Unit –
seen in this mosaic of images from the navigation camera. This navcam camera mosaic was stitched from raw images
taken on Sol 2298, Jan. 23, 2019 and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Marco Di
Lorenzo Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The color balance of the pano was adjusted by the team to approximate
white balancing so as to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under
daytime lighting conditions on Earth.



The rover reached the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 and has been
slowly but steadily climbing ever since to carefully examine the sedimentary
layers laid down over billions of years. 



Furthermore the team released a 360 degree YouTube so the public
can explore the region in detail here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-gZpz8zuDQ

Video Caption: NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Departs Vera Rubin
Ridge (360 View):
The rover took a
360-degree panorama of the area depicting its last drill hole on the ridge (at
a location called “Rock Hall”). Not all browsers support viewing
360 videos. YouTube supports their playback on computers using Chrome, Firefox,
Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



Curiosity is currently exploring the lower sedimentary
la
yers of Mount Sharp which tower over 3 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky and
found that it supported a habitable zone billions of years ago. 

Curiosity rover investigates a huge variety
of past environments preserved within Gale Crater along Vera Rubin Ridge while celebrating
2000 Sols of exploration on the Red Planet. Rover deck is backdropped by Mount
Sharp in this navcam camera mosaic stitched from raw images taken on Sol 2003, Mar.
26, 2018 and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Marco Di Lorenzo Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com

Following the demise of the Opportunity rover killed by a planet
encircling dust storm after 15 exciting years of exploration, Curiosity is NASA’s
only functioning rover operating on the Red Planet.



The stationary InSight lander also continues science
operations. 
Here are further details from NASA:



Even though the rover has left the ridge, Curiosity’s team is
still piecing together the story of its formation. While there have been a
number of clues so far, none fully explains why the ridge has resisted erosion
compared with the bedrock around it. But the rover’s investigation did find
that the rocks of the ridge formed as sediment settled in an ancient lake,
similar to rock layers below the ridge.



“We’ve had our fair share of surprises,” said
Curiosity science team member Abigail Fraeman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re leaving with a different
perspective of the ridge than what we had before.”



A NASA orbiter studying the ridge had previously identified a
strong signal from hematite, an iron-rich mineral that often forms in water.
Curiosity confirmed the presence of hematite, along with other signs of ancient
water, like crystals. These signs appeared in patches,
leading the team to suspect that over time groundwater affected certain parts
of the ridge differently than others. Another discovery was that the hematite
signatures Curiosity mapped didn’t always match the view from space.



“The whole traverse is helping us understand all the
factors that influence how our orbiters see Mars,” Fraeman said.
“Looking up close with a rover allowed us to find a lot more of these hematite
signatures. It shows how orbiter and rover science complement one
another.”



The ridge has also served as the backdrop to a roller-coaster
year: Curiosity’s drill returned to action, only to be stymied
by surprisingly hard rocks. Nevertheless, the team managed to get samples from
the three major rock types of the ridge. To get around a memory issue,
engineers also swapped the rover’s computers (the spacecraft
was designed with two so that it can continue operations if one experiences a
glitch). While the issue is still being diagnosed, operations have continued
with little impact on the mission.



The rover’s new home, Glen Torridon, is in a trough between Vera
Rubin Ridge and the rest of the mountain. This region had been called the
clay-bearing unit because orbiter data show that the rocks there contain
phyllosilicates — clay minerals that form in water and that could tell
scientists more about the ancient lakes that were present in Gale Crater off
and on throughout its early history.



“In addition to indicating a previously wet environment,
clay minerals are known to trap and preserve organic molecules,” said
Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. “That makes this area
especially promising, and the team is already surveying the area for its next
drill site.”



Curiosity has found both clay minerals and organic molecules in
many of the rocks it has drilled since landing in 2012. Organic molecules are
the chemical building blocks of life. If both water and organic molecules were
present when the rocks formed, the clay-bearing unit may be another example of
a habitable environment on ancient Mars — a place capable of supporting life,
if it ever existed.



…………..



Curiosity Traverse Map as of Sol 2354. Credit: NASA

As of today, Sol 2359, Mar. 27, 2019 Curiosity has driven over
12.66 miles (20.38) kilometers) since its August 2012 landing inside Gale Crater
from the landing site to Mount Sharp and taken over 562,500 amazing
images. 



Watch for Ken’s
continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin,
Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy
Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight
Facility, Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and
Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer
– email: ken at kenkremer.com





Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the
KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about
space topics.

………….




Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events



Ken’s
upcoming talks:



Apr 3:
“Exploring Mars; The Search for Life & A Journey in 3-D.”  7 PM, Lawton C
Johnson
Middle School, Summit, NJ: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sef-grant-presents-exploring-mars-and-the-search-for-life-3d-registration-55524445110


Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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