- NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted Curiosity climbing a rocky outcrop known as Mont Mercou.
- The photo was taken at an altitude of 167.5 miles above the rover.
- The hills beyond the region, which has earned its nickname of a French mountain, are rich in sulphates.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took a dramatic image of the Curiosity rover climbing Mont Mercou, a terrene near the center of Gale crater, according to the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
MRO captured the image on April 18 using its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Tool (HiRISE), which can spot items as small as a kitchen table. So even at an altitude of 167.5 miles above the rover at the time, the car-sized Curiosity rover was in plain view, as per HiRISE team image description.
Since 2014, Curiosity has been climbing the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp, the central summit of Gale Crater. Its mission has been to scour the red planet for previous signs of microbial life. In early March, Curiosity began approaching Mont Mercou, which is named after a mountain in France, as reported by Insider.
During its first two years on Mars, Curiosity confirmed that Gale Crater was a lake filled with chemical ingredients suitable for life. Since then, Curiosity has uncovered organic matter, sniffed mysterious peaks in the methane levels of the Martian atmosphere, and found evidence that small salt ponds remained while Mars withered away.
Curiosity will probably uncover more secrets about Mars’ past while exploring Mont Mercou.
The hills just beyond Mount Mercou are prolific in sulfates, “so that’s where we’re headed,” said Abigail Fraeman, assistant scientist for the Curiosity Project, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, in one video update.