Nasa says ‘the scene was just too pretty not to capture it’
Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover has captured a stunning panorama of the Red Planet using its onboard navigation cameras, prompting the mission team to create a rare postcard of the Martian landscape.
By combining two black and white images taken at different times of the day, the team added blue, orange and green colour in order to develop an artistic interpretation of the mountainous scene.
“When the rover team saw the view from Curiosity’s most recent stopping point, the scene was just too pretty not to capture it in the highest quality that the navigation cameras are capable of,” Nasa said.
“Many of the rover’s most stunning panoramas are from the colour Mastcam instrument, which has a far higher resolution than the navigation cameras. That’s why the team added colours of their own to the latest image… tints that are not what the human eye would see; in plaas daarvan, they represent the scene as viewed at different times of day.”
The composite panorama was taken at 8.30am and 4.10pm local Mars time on 16 November in order to capture the maximum amount of detail with the contrasting light conditions.
The image is taken from the slopes of the 5km-tall Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing up for the last seven years.
The postcard was shared ahead of the 10 year anniversary of the launch of the Curiosity rover, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 26 November 2011.
The US space agency sent the car-sized rover to Mars in order to investigate and explore the Gale crater, specifically to see if the Martian geology and climate in that region offered the conditions to support microbial life.
It was also hoped that its findings would help assess how habitable the planet would be for future human exploration.
The initial two-year mission was extended indefinitely and the rover continues to help further humanity’s understanding of the Martian habitat.