We've seen plenty of amazing images taken by the Curiosity rover since it landed two-and-a-half years ago. We've also seen some stunning pictures of the rover itself, like the ones of the damage it's sustained, or its many infamous selfies. But a new photo of Curiosity was released last week that offered, for many, an unfamiliar view of the interplanetary robot. It was taken from over 150 miles above the surface of Mars by a camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter called HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment).
HiRISE is just one of six scientific instruments on the orbiter, all of which have been very busy since entering Mars' orbit in 2006. The camera alone has helped scientists map out ancient lakes, make geological observations, and take beautiful images of the planet's surface. The images even helped us find the UK's Beagle 2 lander, a long lost spacecraft, which was thought to have crash-landed in 2003.
The HiRISE camera has followed Curiosity from the start
The new image of the rover is really just the latest of many taken by the orbiter's camera as it followed Curiosity's journey. The HiRISE team has been tracking Curiosity's movements ever since the SUV-sized rover made its daring descent to the red planet in August of 2012. Even from a great distance, it's captured everything from the rover's landing to its first few drives and beyond, watching over it like a big robotic sibling in the sky.
- August 6, 2012 Curiosity was captured by the orbiter's HiRISE camera for the first time before it even landed. When this image was taken, the rover still had one minute left in the "seven minutes of terror," a colloquial term used by NASA to describe the harrowing landing process.
- August 14, 2012 Days later, Curiosity was spotted at the Bradbury landing site in Gale Crater. The area around it was darkened by the blast of the rover's descent stage. This image is actually just a section of a massive mosaic made by the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona that shows the surface around Curiosity's landing site.
- August 31, 2012 The HiRISE camera helped tell the story of how well the complicated landing plan was executed. Released weeks after it landed, this image shows where the rover's heat shield, descent stage, parachute, and various debris came to rest.
- September 6, 2012 Just a month after the rover landed, the orbiter captured its metaphorical first steps. The rover team drove Curiosity forward about eight feet, rotated it 120 degrees, and then drove it about 15 feet in reverse. Since then, Curiosity has traversed more than five miles of Martian terrain.
- October 4, 2012 The images from the HiRISE camera are used to map out Curiosity's travels. This one details the two-month route to the rover's initial science destination, where it drilled into Martian soil for the first time.
- October 10, 2012 Two months after Curiosity's landing the HiRISE team released some 3D stereo anaglyph images, which are viewable with traditional red/blue glasses.
- April 3, 2013 This GIF shows Curiosity's descent stage and parachute. It was is made from HiRISE images taken over the span of five months, and shows how the parachute's position has changed multiple times because of the Martian wind.
- July 24, 2013 After 11 months on Mars, Curiosity can be seen almost a mile from the Bradbury landing site.
- January 9, 2014 Curiosity has traveled across some rough terrain, as is evidenced in this image from early 2014. In fact, the terrain was so troublesome at times that many of its wheels were heavily damaged, so the team back on Earth planned different routes in order to preserve them. In this image the rover can be seen in the lower left corner, and you can trace its tracks all the way to the top right.
- April 16, 2014 Some of the mission's most important science has been done here at "the Kimberley" location. Careful navigation through the multi-layered area of the Martian surface resulted in a number of twists and turns, evidenced by the donuts left in the tracks made by the SUV-sized rover.
- July 8, 2014 Curiosity was spotted crossing the edge of its "landing ellipse" almost two years into its journey. The ellipse is the four mile by 12 mile area in which the rover was projected to land. It faces more dangerous terrain outside of the ellipse as it heads toward Mars' Mount Sharp.
- February 4, 2015 Curiosity is currently exploring the diverse "Pahrump Hills" area of Gale Crater. In its time here the rover has found evidence of organic matter and has also provided team scientists with observations that indicate Gale Crater was once a massive lake.