NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured a dramatic image last month of Curiosity ascending Mont Mercou, a landform on the slopes of the Red Planet’s 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp.
The image was taken on April 18 by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument, which can resolve features on the Martian surface as small as a coffee table. So the car-sized Curiosity is plainly visible, even though MRO was flying 167.5 miles (269.4 kilometers) above the rover at the time, according to the HiRISE team’s image description.
Curiosity landed in August 2012, on a mission to see if the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer) Gale Crater could have ever supported microbial life. The answer to this question is yes; according to the observations of the six-wheeled robot, Gale once had a potentially habitable lake-and-stream system.
Curiosity arrived at the foothills of Mount Sharp, which rises high into the Martian sky from Gale’s center, in September 2014. Since then, the rover has been climbing the mountain and examining the layered rock deposits for clues about Mars’ long-ago transition from a relatively warm and wet world to the cold desert planet that it is today.
“The rover previously drilled into the rocks at the base of the cliff,” the HiRise team at the University of Arizona wrote. “Scientists are interested in comparing the rocks from the bottom to the top to investigate how any changes may relate to the appearance of the rocks exposed on the cliff face.”
As Curiosity’s science mission continues, Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter are busy studying their surroundings in a different region of Mars. Add China’s recently landed Zhurong rover to the list and there are now three functioning rovers on the red planet. There’s plenty of room for all of them.