Curiosity rover's mission at Vera Rubin Ridge had ended but before it left, it managed to take a quick selfie to remember it by.
A Selfie From Mars
The 6-year-old explorer was commanded to snap 57 images using its robotic arm to generate a fresh selfie. Behind it is a dusty horizon, a leftover of a recent local storm.
According to a press release by NASA, Curiosity has been exploring the Vera Rubin Ridge since September 2017. During the time, it has drilled and collected 19 samples from the location.
The photo was taken from a drill site called "Rock Hall." In the photo, a little drill hole can be seen on the lower left of the rover from where it has collected its final samples from the ridge.
Vera Rubin Ridge, named after the astronomer who discovered dark matter, is rich with an iron-oxide mineral, hematite, which forms under wet conditions. Scientists believe that hematite can unlock information about ancient environments. A highlight from its time in the location is the discovery of organic molecules that dates back to at least 3 billion years.
Also visible in the selfie is the wheel damage that the U.S. space agency has been monitoring for years. In its most recent routine checkup, the team behind the mission found that the cracks and holes on the rover's wheels seem to be getting worse.
However, they believe that the wheels will last for the life of the mission. A software update was sent to adjust the speed of the rover and reduce pressure to minimize further damage.
Off To A New Adventure
According to NASA, Curiosity will next head to the clay region of Mount Sharp. Scientists hope to examine clay minerals found in a trough just south of the ridge, which might uncover clues about ancient lakes that once existed in the area.
The rover, which landed in 2012 in the Gale Crater, is meant to answer the question: did life ever exist on Mars? Its mission was initially meant to last for two years but six years later, Curiosity is still exploring the red planet. So far, it has clocked in around 11 miles and climbed 1,000 feet above its landing site.