Curiosity Takes Self Portrait At Rocknest
December 12, 2012

Curiosity Sends Back Self-Portrait, Prepares For Next Phase Of Mission

[ Watch the Video: Curiosity Rover's Arm Movements for Taking a Self-Portrait ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA has released an image that the talented Mars Curiosity rover has taken, featuring itself with a Martian background.

The self-portrait was taken with Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which captured dozens of high-resolution images to create the picture.

The image shows the rover at "Rocknest," which is the spot in Gale Crater where the mission's first scoops of Martian soil took place.

MAHLI is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm, where the rover had to use wrist motions and turret rotations to acquire the image. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images or portions of images used in the mosaic.

These self-portraits will allow researchers to track changes over time, like dust accumulation and wheel wear. Only MAHLI is capable of taking some images of parts of Curiosity, including the port-side wheels.

NASA also announced that its Curiosity rover has driven another 63 feet into an area on the Red Planet known as "Yellowknife Bay."

The drive was Curiosity's fourth consecutive driving day, totaling 260 feet and bringing the mission total to 0.37 mile.

Curiosity cut its driving day on Monday short when it detected a slight difference in two calculations of its tilt. NASA said it is not an immediate risk, but a trigger for the software to halt the drive was set off as a precaution.

"The rover is traversing across terrain different from where it has driven earlier, and responding differently," said Rick Welch, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "We're making progress, though we're still in the learning phase with this rover, going a little slower on this terrain than we might wish we could."

The rover is approaching a lip where it will be descending about 20 inches to Yellowknife Bay. The team said that it is checking carefully for a safe way down.

Yellowknife Bay is the temporary destination for first use of Curiosity's rock-powdering drill.