Curiosity rover shares selfie after conquering steep hill on Mars
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Curiosity rover shares selfie after conquering steep hill on Mars

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Curiosity Mars selfie

This selfie was taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 26, 2020 (the 2,687th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The crumbling rock layer at the top of the image is "the Greenheugh Pediment," which Curiosity climbed soon after taking the image.

NASA's Curiosity rover conquered a major milestone on Mars, and it took a selfie to celebrate the feat.

Curiosity recently finished a record-setting climb by rolling up its steepest hill to date. It's called Greenheugh Pediment and the challenging hill created a 31-degree tilt for the rover.

Previously, the only other rover to experience more of a tilt was the Opportunity rover's 32-degree record set in 2016.

About 11 feet before the rover reached the broad rock sheet atop the hill, it stopped to mark the moment by taking a 360-degree panorama. The rover's cameras captured 86 images to make the panoramic selfie.

The selfie also showcases a hole Curiosity drilled in the bedrock, nicknamed "Hutton." The images were taken on Feb. 26.

Curiosity finished the climb on March 6 after undertaking three different drives to get there.

The rover's drivers here on Earth are based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. They carefully plan each drive to keep the rover safe. Although the wheel system was designed for the rover to withstand a 45-degree tilt, steep climbs can cause the wheels to spin in place, according to the agency.

The rover has six aluminum wheels with grooves to help it remain stable on the Martian surface.

NASA also released a video, created by the rover, to show how it takes a selfie.

The rover's Mars Hand Lens Camera, known as MAHLI, sits on the robotic arm. This can be turned in all directions, much like a selfie stick, to help capture a 360-degree selfie.

Cameras are key to every aspect of Curiosity's mission.

Without the images collected by the rover's Mastcam, as well as the black-and-white Navcams for navigation beneath them, the rover would sit still on Mars.

This is because Curiosity isn't autonomous. Instead, teams on Earth send commands to the rover. And without images, the drivers wouldn't be able to tell Curiosity where to go. Curiosity doesn't move unless it's safe to proceed.

It's those images that have enabled it to travel more than 13 miles across the surface of Mars since landing in 2012. When Curiosity landed, the Greenheugh Pediment was just a blip in the distance. Now, it's conquered another aspect of its journey.

Curiosity landed in Gale Crater, a vast and dry ancient lake bed with a 16,404-foot mountain — Mount Sharp — at its center.

Mount Sharp's peak is taller than the rim of the crater. The rover began climbing the mountain in 2014, and the Greenheugh Pediment is the steepest part of the climb so far.

Streams and lakes likely filled Gale Crater billions of years ago, which is why NASA landed the rover there in 2012. Scientists want to know if ancient Mars once supported microbial life. And each day spent on Mars, and every image returned, could be the key to making that discovery.

Now, with much of Curiosity's team working from home in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the rover received a set of instructions that kept it busy drilling rock samples and making science observations over the weekend.

The-CNN-Wire

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