Mars can be a mystery and NASA’s Curiosity rover has rolled right in the middle of it.
The space agency released a wild 360-degree panorama captured by the rover on Aug. 9. It’s notable for the view of the darkened, dusty Mars skies and for the detailed look at the dust-covered rover itself.
The landscape around Curiosity shows part of Vera Rubin Ridge, a spot that’s especially intriguing to scientists. The rover has encountered rocks here that are too hard to drill into and NASA is wondering how they got that way.
The area is home to a surprising variation of colors and textures in the local geology. The rover recently attempted three different drilling operations, finally finding success when it hit on a softer target named ‘Stoer.’
The Curiosity team hopes analysis of the rocks here will tell them more about what makes the Vera Rubin Ridge so resistant to erosion. The rover is still investigating the location, with two more drilling samples planned for this month.
You can explore the interactive 360-degree YouTube version of the panorama, which is about as close as you can get to actually standing in the wheels of the rover.
The annotated video view points out the most recent drilling site and you can even get a look at a hole in one of the rover’s wheels.
While Curiosity is still going strong and bearing witness to the tail end of the global dust storm that encircled the planet, its cousin the Opportunity rover hasn’t been heard from since it went silent on June 10.
NASA is still holding out hope Opportunity will recover and phone home, but we can still be grateful for Curiosity’s continued work.