Mars rover beams back dramatic selfie at majestic “Mont Mercou”


▶ Watch Video: NASA’s Perseverance rover captures Mars sounds

NASA’s Perseverance rover may still be finding its footing in the Jezero Crater, but in the meantime, the Curiosity rover is having a blast taking selfies at a fascinating rock formation.

Since 2014, Curiosity has been slowly but surely climbing the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp, which is located in the middle of the Gale Crater. NASA revealed new images from the rover Tuesday that were captured earlier this month.

On March 16 and March 26, Curiosity snapped 60 images using the Mars Hand Lens Imager on its robotic arm and 11 using its Mastcam, located on its “head.” It captured an impressive rock formation called “Mont Mercou” — named after a mountain in southeastern France.

In the selfies, as well as an accompanying pair of majestic panoramas taken on March 4, Mont Mercou can be seen to the left of the rover. The formation is 20 feet tall.

“Wish you were here!” the rover tweeted with the selfie.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two different cameras to create this selfie in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet tall. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Using its drill, Curiosity acquired a sample of rock near the formation — the 30th sample it’s collected so far. NASA scientists have named the sample “Nontron” after a French village near the actual Mont Mercou.

The names were chosen for this part of the mission because Mars orbiters previously detected nontronite, a type of iron-rich clay mineral found close to the French town, in the region.

The rover’s drill turned the sample to dust and tucked it safely inside its body for further study using its internal instruments. Scientists hope to learn more about the rock’s composition — and maybe uncover secrets of the planet’s past.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mastcam instrument to take the 32 individual images that make up this panorama of the outcrop nicknamed “Mont Mercou.” It took a second panorama, rolling sideways 13 feet, to create a stereoscopic effect similar to a 3D viewfinder. The effect helps scientists get a better idea of the geometry of Mount Mercou’s sedimentary layers, as if they’re standing in front of the formation.NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


The sample was collected as the rover transitions from the “clay-bearing unit” and the “sulfate-bearing unit” of its ascent — an area scientists believe could reveal how Mars transitioned from a potentially habitable planet billions of years ago to the frozen desert planet it is today.

Until Perseverance arrived a little over a month ago, Curiosity was the only rover currently active on the red planet. The two rovers are located about 2,300 miles apart.

Perseverance is now busy preparing the Ingenuity helicopter for its first flight in April — marking the first flight on another planet. After that, it will begin its hunt for ancient life.

More about: