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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover sends selfie back to Earth

Phoebe Cooke, October 29, 2019 6:45PM The Sun

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Curiosity's selfie, made up of 37 images taken by the rover's robotic arm. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS media_cameraCuriosity's selfie, made up of 37 images taken by the rover's robotic arm. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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NASA’s Curiosity robot has taken a selfie on Mars.

The self-portrait is made up from a series of 57 images taken from its robotic arm earlier this month.

The space agency is also celebrating the first time Curiosity has conducted a chemistry experiment in the clay-rich Glen Etive crater.

Two small drill holes can be seen to the left of the rover where scientists hope the remains of bacterial life may have been preserved for billions of years within the rock samples.

NASA scientists have been waiting seven years to find just the right place for the rover to conduct what are called wet chemistry experiments – which use liquid chemicals – in the portable lab in its belly called Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM).

SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US, said: “We’ve been eager to find an area that would be compelling* enough to do wet chemistry.

“Now that we’re in the clay-bearing unit, we’ve finally got it.”

It is the second time the Curiosity rover has conducted an experiment involving liquid chemicals after scientists were forced to use its limited supplies when its drill malfunctioned* in December 2016.

Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, and the Glen Etive is said to be a “strategic location” that will reveal more about how this area of clay formed.

media_cameraNASA received this image from Curiosity on February 2, 2018, on its way to its current location. It shows a view from Vera Rubin Ridge. Picture: AFP/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA practised experiments at Ogunquit Beach in Maine, Connecticut, in the US, to make adjustments to the way Curiosity worked that will improve these experiments.

Scientists will get the results of the current experiments next year.

Mr Mahaffy added: “SAM’s data is extremely complex and takes time to interpret. But we’re all eager to see what we can learn from this new location, Glen Etive.”

About 300m behind the rover is Vera Rubin Ridge, which Curiosity left nearly a year ago.

Beyond the ridge, you can see the floor of Gale Crater and the crater’s northern rim. Curiosity has been climbing Mount Sharp, a 4.8km-tall mountain inside the crater.

The labels explain the landmarks on the Mars surface behind Curiosity. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS media_cameraThe labels explain the landmarks on the Mars surface behind Curiosity. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Clay-based rocks are good at preserving chemical compounds, which break down over time when bombarded by radiation from space and the Sun.

The science team would like to find out which organic* compounds, if any, have been preserved in the rocks at Glen Etive.

Understanding how this area formed will give them a better idea of how the Martian climate was changing billions of years ago.

This story was first published in The Sun and is republished here with permission.

This photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Picture: NASA via AP media_cameraThis photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Picture: NASA via AP

GLOSSARY

  • compelling:
  • malfunctioned:
  • organic: to do with living or once-living things

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How does Curiosity take photos of itself?
  2. Where will Curiosity do its chemistry experiments?
  3. What does SAM stand for?
  4. What has Curiosity been climbing?
  5. Why is clay good to study?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Scientific report
Work with a partner and write up a set of fictional (not true) results of the scientific experiment recently conducted on Mars. The scientists are hoping it will give them some information on how this area of clay formed and if there have been any signs of life preserved in the rocks. Your report doesn’t have to be scientifically correct, but your focus should be on making it look professional and creative in the results you are presenting. The more interesting things you can present in your results, the more interesting reading for your peers!

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social

2. Extension
Use your computer or just create on poster paper, a ‘selfie’ image of yourself on Mars or somewhere else that is spectacular! Write a caption to accompany your selfie image.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Digital Technologies, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Say Cheese
Think about a place you visited for the first time and loved. Where were you? Who were you with? Why did you love it? Did you take a selfie?

Draw a quick sketch of your selfie, Instagram style and caption it telling everyone why they NEED to discover this place too.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Where in the universe – including on Earth – would you most like to take a selfie?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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