NASA's Curiosity rover sends home 360-degree view of Martian sky (Image: Twitter)
NASA's Curiosity rover has sent home a 360-degree panoramic view of the Martian sky. The picture showed reddish-brown skies darkened by a fading global dust storm that has enshrouded the red planet for weeks.
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Curiosity rover also confirmed its current location at Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars. The rover is covered by a thin layer of dust on its deck.
Earlier, rover after survey collected a new rock sample. Its last two drill attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks, NASA said in a statement. Curiosity started using a new drill method earlier this year to work around a mechanical problem.
Curiosity cannot determine exactly how hard a rock will be before drilling it, so for this most recent drilling activity, the rover team made an educated guess.
The rover has never encountered a place with so much variation in colour and texture, according to Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.
"The ridge isn't this monolithic thing -- it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colours," Vasavada said.
"Some are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are," he said.
The best way to discover why these rocks are so hard is to drill them into a powder for the rover's two internal laboratories.
Analysing them might reveal what's acting as "cement" in the ridge, enabling it to stand despite wind erosion.
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Most likely, Vasavada said, groundwater flowing through the ridge in the ancient past had a role in strengthening it, perhaps acting as plumbing to distribute this wind-proofing "cement."
Two more drilled samples are planned for the ridge in September. After that, Curiosity will drive to its scientific end zone: areas enriched in clay and sulphate minerals higher up Mount Sharp.