NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is slowly working its way up the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, a towering mound of sedimentary rock in the centre of Gale Crater. On 11 October, Curiosity used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, mounted on the end of the rover’s robot arm, to collect 57 images that were stitched together to form the panorama seen here (the robot arm is not visible in the composite image). Just to the left of the rover, two drill holes can be seen – Glen Etive 1, right, and Glen Etive 2, left – where samples were collected for chemical analysis by the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument in the rover’s belly. About 300 metres (984 feet) behind Curiosity, Vera Rubin Ridge can be seen. The floor of Gale Crater and its northern rim are visible in the background. Since landing in Gale Crater seven years ago, Curiosity has snapped more than 610,000 images and traveled more than 21 kilometres (13 miles) over the course of 2,565 martian days.
A new study has confirmed that Mars was once, billions of years ago, capable of storing water in lakes over an extended period of time. Using data from NASA’s Curiosity rover, the team behind Mars Science Laboratory has determined that, long ago, water helped deposit sediment into Gale Crater, where the rover landed on 6 August 2012.