Curiosity rover snaps a selfie of Mars’ rocky Greenheugh Pediment

Georgina Torbet

NASA’s Curiosity rover recently conquered its steepest ever slope, making it to the top of an area called the Greenheugh Pediment, a sheet of rock at the top of a hill. This made the perfect opportunity to capture an image of the scene just below the top of the hill, with the rover capturing another fascinating selfie before it took off up the slope.

You can see a massive, high-resolution version of the image here.

This selfie was taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 26, 2020 (the 2,687th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The crumbling rock layer at the top of the image is “the Greenheugh Pediment,” which Curiosity climbed soon after taking the image. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

To create a Curiosity selfie, the image is stitched together from multiple images in a panorama format. This particular image consists of a total of 86 images that were edited together to create the final image.

These images were captured by the camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm, called the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The camera is turned in all different directions, taking images as it goes. With its job complete, a cover slides over the MAHLI to protect it from dust. Then, because there are so many images available for the panorama, the team is able to edit out the rover’s arm to leave an image of Curiosity alone in the Martian landscape.

“We get asked so often how Curiosity takes a selfie,” Doug Ellison, a Curiosity camera operator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a blog post. “We thought the best way to explain it would be to let the rover show everyone from its own point of view just how it’s done.”

The video showing the process of taking a selfie is in black and white because it was recorded using one of Curiosity’s Navigation Cameras, located on the mast, which capture images only in black and white.

The rover has a total of seventeen cameras on board, including these two black and white navigation cameras, the Remote Micro Imager which is part of the ChemCam instrument, two color cameras on the mast which took the selfie images, and twelve cameras on the rover body and mast for hazard avoidance and other functions, plus one a decent imaging camera.