Nasa's Curiosity rover captures stunning 360-degree view 'bidding goodbye' to scenic Martian region as it begins next chapter of exploration
- Curiosity rover's two-year mission extension began on October 1, allowing it to move on
- Nasa has released 360-degree footage of the rover's 'goodbye' views of the Murray Buttes
- This area is said to be 'one of the most scenic landscapes' it's reached yet
Nasa's Curiosity rover has embarked on the next stage of its Mars journey, beginning the ascent to new locations on Mount Sharp where it will explore possible evidence of ancient water.
The mobile laboratory's two-year mission extension began on October 1, but before it moves on, the rover has revealed one more glimpse at an area said to be 'one of the most scenic landscapes' it's reached yet.
Nasa has released 360-degree footage of the rover's views of the Murray Buttes, stitching together numerous images taken on the 1,451st Martian day of its mission.
Use your mouse to look around the Martian landscape
WHAT IT SHOWS
The footage was captured on September 4 by the rover's Mastcam in the 'Murray Buttes' on lower Mount Sharp.
At the center of the scene, a flat-topped mesa can be seen rising 39 feet above the plains.
The area is said to be 'one of the most scenic landscapes' yet.
Curiosity is set to investigate sites on lower Mount Sharp, a layered mound that hosts evidence of ancient, water-rich environments.
Roughly a mile-and-a-half into its journey, it will reach a ridge topped with hematite-rich material.
Then, it will proceed to an area of exposed, clay-rich bedrock.
These sites were identified from Mars orbiter observations, and researchers say both hematite and clay are typically indicative of wet environments.
'We continue to reach higher and younger layers on Mount Sharp,' said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
'Even after four years of exploring near and on the mountain, it still has the potential to completely surprise us.'
Its recent self-portrait, pictured, was created with images captured near the base of one of the Murray Buttes, where it drilled on Sept 18th for a sample of rock powder. Bits of the sample have since been delivered to the rover's internal laboratory for analysis
HOW TO GET A 360° VIEW
To look around the red planet with your phone, just open the video in the YouTube app, and hold the phone eye-level as you would to take a landscape photo.
Hold it evenly, and slowly point the phone in different directions.
Turn in a circle, look up to the sky, or down at the ground, and the video will show you every different angle as if you are standing on the dunes yourself.
For laptop or desktop viewers, click the image in the YouTube video, and drag it to take a 360 degree look around.
Since the rover first landed on Mars in August 2012, it has taken more than 180,000 images.
Its recent self-portrait was created with images captured near the base of one of the Murray Buttes, where it drilled on Sept 18th for a sample of rock powder.
Bits of the sample have since been delivered to the rover's internal laboratory for analysis.
Curiosity has also obtained a panoramic view of the region, using its Mastcam's left-eye camera to capture a last look at this site.
The mobile laboratory's two-year mission extension began on October 1, but before it moves on, the rover has revealed one more glimpse at an area said to be 'one of the most scenic landscapes' it's reached yet. Nasa has released 360-degree footage of the rover's views of the Murray Buttes, pictured
A flat-topped mesa can be seen rising 39 feet above the plains. The 360 view was created by stitching together numerous images taken on the 1,451st Martian day of its mission
'Bidding goodbye to 'Murray Buttes,' Curiosity's assignment is the ongoing study of ancient habitability and the potential for life,' says Curiosity Program Scientist Michael Meyer at Nasa Headquarters in Washington.
'This mission, as it explores the succession of rock layers, is reading the 'pages' of Martian history – changing our understanding of Mars and how the planet has evolved. Curiosity has been and will be a cornerstone in our plans for future missions.'
The rover recently drilled a site known as the Murray formation, a layer roughly 600 feet thick.
The investigation so far has revealed it is mostly made of mudstone, from mud accumulations in an ancient lake.
Pictured, a site in Murray Buttes known as M9a can be seen standing roughly 16 feet higher than the rover, at about 82 feet away
Curiosity has climbed almost half of the Murray formation, and researchers hope to see it explore the upper region during its extended mission.
'We will see whether that record of lakes continues further,' Vasavada said.
'The more vertical thickness we see, the longer the lakes were present, and the longer havitable conditions existed here. Did the ancient environment change over time? Will the type of evidence we've found so far transition to something else?'
'The Hematite and Clay units likely indicate different environments from the conditions recorded in older rock beneath them and different from each other. It will be interesting to see whether either or both were habitable environments.'
The map illustrates the rover's route from its August 2012 landing to its recent location at Murray Buttes. It also shows the planned path for the 'Hematite Unit' and 'Clay Unit' on lower Mount Sharp
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