NASA's Curiosity rover reached a new drill site on one of Mars' tallest mountains, and has sent home a selfie in front of the sprawling landscape.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been on Mars since 2012, but it continues to wow scientists and space fans alike with its new discoveries. According to a report form the Economic Times, the rover has been heading southwest after studying a mountainous region with abnormally high levels of silica and hydrogen in the ground.
One of the main functions of Curiosity is to analyze samples of the Martian soil. In the “Marias Pass” region, the rover has sent home more than just geological data; it treated NASA scientists with a selfie showing the vast background from atop one of the planet’s highest mountains.
Curiosity completed its research in the Marias Pass on August 12 and then headed back toward Mount Sharp, which it reached in September 2014. Over the past few days, the rover has traveled 433 feet, rounding out its total distance traveled since its August 2012 landing to 11.1 kilometers.
The rover is fitted with an “internal laboratory,” equipped with instruments that analyze samples directly from the Martian soil. Curiosity team members hope to learn why the rocks from this region have significantly higher concentrations of silica and hydrogen than other locations studied by the rover.
Silica is one of the key components of rocks, and is found throughout Earth in the form of quartz. The hydrogen present in the samples suggests that there was likely once water present on the red planet. The new drill site will help scientists understand historical shifts in Mars’ environment, which may begin to explain the fate of any water on the planet.