NASA has multiple rovers and spacecraft on and around Mars, searching for signs of past life, water, and performing various science experiments. One of the rovers is the NASA Curiosity Mars rover, and it recently approached a rock formation that scientists call “Mont Mercou.” That nickname was taken from a mountain in France. The Martian Mont Mercou is a rock outcropping that stands about 20 feet tall. Curiosity has imaged the rock outcropping in a new selfie and snapped a pair of panoramas offering a 3D view.
The selfie was snapped by Curiosity while near a new drill hole at a nearby rock sample called “Nontron.” That drilling sample represents the 30th sample taken by the mission so far. The drill aboard Curiosity powderized the sample before feeding it to instruments inside the rover to allow the science team to get a better understanding of the composition of the rock and any clues it might offer about the distant Martian past.
The area Curiosity is now operating in is a transition between the “clay-bearing unit” the rover is leaving and the “sulfate-bearing unit” that’s in front of it on Mount Sharp. Mount Sharp is a three-mile-tall mountain the rover has been climbing since 2014. Scientists are hopeful that the transitional area could reveal what happened to Mars as it became the desert planet known today.
Curiosity’s selfie is composed of 60 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager attached to the rover’s robotic arm. The collection of photos was taken on March 26, 2021, the 3070th Martian sol of the mission. The images were combined with 11 others taken by the Mastcam on March 16, 2021, 10 days prior to the first set of photos being taken.
The panoramas were taken using Mastcam on March 4, 2021. One panorama was shot from a distance of about 130 feet from the outcrop before Curiosity rolled to the side and shot another from the same distance. The goal was to create a stereoscopic effect similar to 3D viewfinders.