Curiosity rover on Mars shares stunning panorama, selfie with the rocky Mont Mercou

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Curiosity rover has snapped a selfie with a majestic rock formation on Mars, known as Mont Mercou. The Mars rover also captured a pair of panoramic pictures, providing a three-dimensional view, of the stark cliff face of the landmark. The selfie, created from 60 individual images, was taken on 26 March 2021 – the 3,070th Martian day (sol) of Curiosity’s mission, by two cameras on the rover. The first is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on Curiosity’s robotic arm. Eleven of the images were also contributed by the Mastcam, taken on a 16 March photo-spree.

Mont Mercou is about 20 feet (6 meters) tall. Curiosity has drilled a sample of the rock, which the team has nicknamed ‘Nontron’, NASA said in a statement. The nomenclature gives the science team leeway to examine and explain the composition and origin of the rock on the Red Planet. The spot at which Curiosity snapped its selfie with Mont Mercou is at the transition between the ‘clay-bearing unit’ in the Gale Crater – from where the rover is departing, and the ‘sulfate-bearing unit’ in Mount Sharp, to where the rover is headed.

 Curiosity rover on Mars shares stunning panorama, selfie with the rocky Mont Mercou

The Curiosity rover used two cameras to create this selfie in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet (6 meters) tall on Mars. Image: NASA-JPL/Caltech

Earlier in March, Curiosity had taken some more panoramas with its Mastcam instrument. Studying these images from more than one angle helps scientists understand the 3D geometry of the sedimentary layers that make up Mount Mercou.

NASA is parallelly gearing up to deploy the first helicopter to fly on another world. The Ingenuity Mars helicopter was carefully deployed from the belly of the Perseverance rover, the mission team at JPL shared in a recent tweet.

“It [the helicopter] is stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there’s some reverse origami to do before I can set it down. First though, I’ll be off to the designated ‘helipad,’ a couple days’ drive from here,” the Perseverance rover team tweeted.

The helicopter is expected to take flight on 8 April this year.