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Watch NASA’s Curiosity rover explore an important Martian landmark

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance mission is the center of attention now, thanks in part to the extraordinary images coming from the Ingenuity helicopter.

Perseverance isn’t the only presence on Mars, though. Its predecessor Curiosity is still going strong after its 2012 landing on the Red Planet.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Mast Camera is still sending back images (including selfies) from the rover’s travels in Gale Crater today.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Beginning in early March, Curiosity documented “Mont Mercou,” a 20-foot-tall rocky cliff jutting out of the Martian surface. On Earth, Mont Mercou lies in southern France, near the village of Nontron.

Here’s a stereoscopic view made from two shots of mini mountain.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Many features in the area bear French regional names due to the presence of nontronite, a potentially biologically important mineral named for the village Nontron in France.

The latest panorama from Curiosity, composed of 132 individual shots taken on April 15, 2021, shows the best view yet from atop Mont Mercou.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is interested in this region of Mars because it marks the end of the clay-rich area Curiosity has been exploring, with a sulfate-rich area just ahead.

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Scientists think there could be clues to what happened as Mars lost its atmosphere in this region, since sulfate often forms as water evaporates.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

On its way to the “sulfate-bearing unit” ahead, Curiosity will pass by Rafael Navarro Mountain, named after a mission astrobiologist who passed away in January 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity snapped an image of Rafael Navarro Mountain as it carried on with the work he helped make possible.

Read more stories on NASA here.

Shane Kimbrough