A Martian Dust Storm Can't Stop the Curiosity Rover From Taking Selfies

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / Seán Doran

Sometimes you’ve just gotta do it for the ‘gram, even if it involves dealing with whiplash winds and a face full of Martian dust. The epic dust storm currently slamming Mars had recently smothered the trusty old rover Opportunity in what NASA called a “dark perpetual night,” but it didn’t stop the camera-happy Curiosity rover from taking a panoramic selfie capturing the surreal dust clouds in the background on Sunday.

Not that you’d expect any less of Curiosity. The young rover, which was launched in 2011, is a notorious selfie-taker. It first sent home solo photos in January, marking its return to work after a brief hiatus. It sent another in February from the Pahrump Hills. Now, Curiosity is in the Gale Crater, where the ongoing dust storm has blotted out much of the skyline, as the rover reported on June 13 via its Twitter account.

The dust lent Curiosity’s selfie, posted to Flickr by citizen scientist Seán Doran on Sunday, a stylish but surreal red tint. Who needs Clarendon when you’ve got a haze of fine red dust?

In a Flickr comment, Doran explained that the photo manages to avoid picturing Curiosity’s selfie stick because it’s a composite: “It’s blended out of the shot….the arm moves around as it takes about 100 images to make a full 360.”

No, Curiosity didn't use an Instagram filter on this selfie; that's a thick haze of red dust blowing around Mars's Gale Crater.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / Seán Doran

While Curiosity seems to be coping with the storm just fine, its older sibling Opportunity isn’t doing as great. On June 13, NASA reported that Opportunity, which has been fearlessly roaming Mars for almost 15 years, had to undergo an emergency shutdown after its energy production dropped to only 22 watt-hours.

Because the rovers are solar powered, dust storms like the current one, which at one point covered an area the size of North America, can seriously jeopardize a rover’s health; without power, a rover might not be able to last the frigid Martian night. But in a conference call, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist John Callas, Ph.D. affirmed that the rover “should be able to ride out the storm”; Opportunity, after all, survived an even bigger dust storm in 2007.

Curiosity appears to be safe for now, so it can continue investigating the newly created Duluth Drill Hole, using the camera at the end of its long robotic arm — assuming it can manage to point its lens away from its handsome mug.

The Duluth drill hole is about 2 inches deep and 0.6 inches in diameter.


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