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Curiosity Low-Angle Self-Portrait at ‘Buckskin’ Drilling Site on Mount Sharp

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Posted August 21, 2015

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle above the “Buckskin” rock target, where the mission collected its seventh drilled sample. The site is in the “Marias Pass” area of lower Mount Sharp.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The scene combines dozens of images taken by Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars. The 92 component images are among MAHLI Sol 1065 raw images here. For scale, the rover’s wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide.

Curiosity drilled the hole at Buckskin during Sol 1060 (July 30, 2015). Two patches of pale, powdered rock material pulled from Buckskin are visible in this scene, in front of the rover. The patch closer to the rover is where the sample-handling mechanism on Curiosity’s robotic arm dumped collected material that did not pass through a sieve in the mechanism. Sieved sample material was delivered to laboratory instruments inside the rover. The patch farther in front of the rover, roughly triangular in shape, shows where fresh tailings spread downhill from the drilling process. The drilled hole, 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter, is at the upper point of the tailings.

The rover is facing northeast, looking out over the plains from the crest of a 20-foot (6-meter) hill that it climbed to reach the Marias Pass area.  The upper levels of Mount Sharp are visible behind the rover, while Gale Crater’s northern rim dominates the horizon on the left and right of the mosaic.

A portion of this selfie cropped tighter around the rover is at this site.  Another version of the wide view, presented in a projection that shows the horizon as a circle, is at this link.

MAHLI is mounted at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. For this self-portrait, the rover team positioned the camera lower in relation to the rover body than for any previous full self-portrait of Curiosity. This yielded a view that includes the rover’s “belly,” as in a partial self-portrait taken about five weeks after Curiosity’s August 2012 landing inside Mars’ Gale Crater. Before sending Curiosity the arm-positioning commands for this Buckskin belly panorama, the team previewed the low-angle sequence of camera pointings on a test rover in California. A mosaic from that test is at https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19810.

This selfie at Buckskin does not include the rover’s robotic arm beyond a portion of the upper arm held nearly vertical from the shoulder joint. Shadows from the rest of the arm and the turret of tools at the end of the arm are visible on the ground. With the wrist motions and turret rotations used in pointing the camera for the component images, the arm was positioned out of the shot in the frames or portions of frames used in this mosaic. This process was used previously in acquiring and assembling Curiosity self-portraits taken at sample-collection sites “Rocknest“, “John Klein“, “Windjana” and “Mojave“.

Source: NASA

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