I should probably explain what this image signifies (other than that it is AWESOME). It was taken September 8, 2012, on the 32nd full day of the Curiosity rover’s mission to Mars. It was taken using the camera mounted to the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm, pointing back at Curiosity’s other cameras. There were good engineering reasons to take the photo; it’s the first opportunity we’ve had since landing to see the parts of Curiosity that Curiosity can’t see with her mast-mounted cameras, and it’s a useful test of the performance of the arm-mounted camera. That performance is, by the way, awesome. The color is weird because it was shot through the camera’s dust cover (a device that is now, in fact, dust-covered, thus the reddish cast and the schmutz here and there); but even through all the dust the crispness of the detail is marvelous. If you’d like a version without the LOLspeak you can find it on my blog, and you can download the original, unprocessed version here.
But that’s all beside the point, really. This is like a stupid cell phone photo returned from the frikkin’ surface of Mars. It is simultaneously silly and wondrous.
If you share the photo, please give credit where it’s due: to NASA/JPL/MSSS/Emily Lakdawalla. NASA and JPL built and operates the rover; Malin Space Science Systems built and operates the camera. I just processed the picture and added the LOLspeak.
If you’re not clear on how Curiosity took this photo, well, let me show you how she took it, using my handy-dandy LEGO model of the rover:
What is Curiosity up to these days, a month into her mission? She’s driven about 100 meters but has paused for a week to continue the process of commissioning her instruments. This week is all about making sure her arm works as engineers expect it to — that it can precisely place the instruments and sampling tools where they direct it to, and that the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the other science instrument on the arm, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, are working properly. This photo was taken with MAHLI; I’d say it’s working properly! For more detail on the rover’s current work, read here!