A new panoramic image from Curiosity provides a sweeping vista of the interior and rim of Gale Crater, including much of the rover’s route during its first five-and-a-half years on Mars and features up to about 50 miles (85 km) away.
The view from ‘Vera Rubin Ridge’ on the north flank of Mount Sharp encompasses much of the 11-mile (18-km) route the rover has driven from its 2012 landing site, all inside Gale Crater.
One hill on the northern horizon is about 50 miles away, well outside of the crater, though most of the scene’s horizon is the crater’s northern rim, roughly one-third that distance away and 1.2 miles (2 km) above the rover.
Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) took the component images of the panorama on October 25, 2017, during the 1,856th Martian day, or sol, while the rover paused on the northern edge of Vera Rubin Ridge.
“Even though Curiosity has been steadily climbing for five years, this is the first time we could look back and see the whole mission laid out below us,” said Curiosity project scientist Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“From our perch on Vera Rubin Ridge, the vast plains of the crater floor stretch out to the spectacular mountain range that forms the northern rim of Gale Crater.”
“The rover photographed the scene shortly before northern Mars’ winter solstice, a season of clear skies, gaining a sharp view of distant details.”
Curiosity’s exact landing spot on the floor of the crater lies out of sight behind a slight rise, but the scene includes ‘Yellowknife Bay.’
That’s where, in 2013, the mission found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment that offered all of the basic chemical ingredients for microbial life.
Farther north are the channel and fan of Peace Vallis, relics of the streams that carried water and sediment into the crater about 3 billion years ago.
The site from which the images were taken sits 1,073 feet (327 m) in elevation above Curiosity’s landing site.
Since leaving that site, the rover has climbed another 85 feet (26 m) in elevation.
In recent days, the Mastcam has recorded component images for a panorama looking uphill southward toward the mission’s next major destination area. That is called the ‘Clay Unit’ because observations from orbit detected clay minerals there.