The Curiosity has been on the Red Planet since August 2012 and is currently located at the Vera Rubin Ridge. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
After snagging a new rock sample on 9 August 2018 NASA’s Curiosity rover surveyed its surroundings on Mars, producing a 360-degree panorama of its current location on Vera Rubin Ridge. The panorama includes umber skies, darkened by a fading global dust storm. It also includes a rare view by the Mast Camera of the rover itself, revealing a thin layer of dust on Curiosity’s deck. In the foreground is the rover’s most recent drill target, named “Stoer” after a town in Scotland near where important discoveries about early life on Earth were made in lakebed sediments.
The new drill sample delighted Curiosity’s science team, because the rover’s last two drill attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks. Curiosity started using a new drill method earlier this year to work around a mechanical problem. Testing has shown it to be as effective at drilling rocks as the old method, suggesting the hard rocks would have posed a problem no matter which method was used.
There’s no way for Curiosity to determine exactly how hard a rock will be ...