APR 23, 2015 5:55 AM PDT

Thar She Goes!

For the first time in 2015, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has spotted its roving buddy Curiosity on the Martian landscape, but the rover seems to be missing its tell-tale tracks in the red planet's dirt.
The Mars Rover Curiosity as seen by the MRO
The MRO periodically checks in on Curiosity with its ultra-powerful High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera when the satellite orbits overhead. This Mars robot "buddy system" has also been done for NASA's veteran Opportunity rover and, in both cases, the orbital perspective has helped mission controllers identify points of scientific interest "over the horizon."

It's also a reassuring perspective, allowing rover drivers to plan the safest driving routes.
But as this HiRISE observation shows, there's an interesting lack of rover tracks that have been clearly visible during previous orbital passes by the MRO. Curiosity's last orbital portrait was snapped over 4 months ago.

"Unlike other regions of for which Curiosity has traversed, here the rover tracks are not apparent, likely because the disturbed, underlying, dark sand is similar in tone to that on the surface," writes Nathan Bridges, HiRISE Investigation Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Imaged on April 8, Curiosity can be seen working at the "Pahrump Hills" location at the base of Aeolis Mons (known as Mount Sharp, a 5.5 kilometer-high mountain in the center of Gale Crater). The region has proven itself to be a goldmine of geological features, rich in sandstone, siltstone and calcium sulfate veins, revealing Mars' ancient wet past.

Apart from the dark sand being a similar color to the bedrock, there's also the possibility that the Martian wind may have erased Curiosity's tracks, something mission scientists will be keen to understand as these high-resolution images can track the motion of sand around the rover's place of continuing work.

See video below for more images of Mars from HiRise


(Source: High Rise Imaging Science Experiment)
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Solving the Mystery of Jupiter's Astonishing Storms
SEP 28, 2020
Solving the Mystery of Jupiter's Astonishing Storms
Hurricanes don't only happen on Earth; the giant planet Jupiter is also home to swirling storms. On Jupiter, however, mu ...
NOV 02, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Never-Found-Before Molecule Detected in Titan's Atmosphere
NOV 02, 2020
Never-Found-Before Molecule Detected in Titan's Atmosphere
Astronomers have detected Cyclopropenylidene (C3H2) on Titan, one of Saturn's 53 confirmed moons. While the molecule ...
NOV 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
NOV 14, 2020
Evidence of Supernovae Found in Ancient Tree Rings
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have found that the rings in Earth's ancient trees may hold evid ...
DEC 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
DEC 28, 2020
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
China has recovered the first new moon rock samples in decades, and from a previously unexplored part of the moon. Now w ...
FEB 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Do Salt and Melting Ice Cause Landslides on Mars?
FEB 10, 2021
Do Salt and Melting Ice Cause Landslides on Mars?
Recurrent slope lineae (RSL) are dark flows that extend downhill on Mars to form sandy patterns on its surface. Research ...
APR 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Japanese Spacecraft Launched to Clean Space Junk
APR 10, 2021
Japanese Spacecraft Launched to Clean Space Junk
  There are currently around 900,000 pieces of man-made space junk orbiting Earth- mostly from now-defunct satellit ...
Loading Comments...