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The Curiosity rover on Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge is moving on, but not before saying a little goodbye to the area it has spent the last year exploring.
Before setting off for other vistas, the Curiosity took an epic panorama pic of the iron-rich location it has studied.
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Studying samples collected from the Gale Crater, NASA was able to determine that the rover was exploring the remnant of an ancient Martian lake.
To take the panorama pic, the Curiosity used its Mast camera which captured a slew of photographs that NASA then color corrected to make it look like in daylight on Earth.
From here, the rover will move on to Glen Torridon, what Gizmodo calls a “clay bearing unit,” to begin new research there. The rover is looking for signs of previous life on the Red Planet, but it is also yielding a ton of data about the surface and climate of Mars in general.
Discussing the rover’s next moves, project scientist Ashwin Vasavada said: “In addition to indicating a previously wet environment, clay minerals are known to trap and preserve organic molecules…That makes this area especially promising, and the team is already surveying the area for its next drill site.”
Proving that Mars was capable of hosting life would be a big deal, of course, but the road to that kind of certainty is going to be a long one. Moving on from Glen Torridon, the rover might find even more evidence of Mars’ past potential for hosting life and scientists have their fingers crossed that it has the life left in it to do so.
The other Mars rover currently on the surface, the Opportunity, hasn’t made contact with NASA since a dust storm knocked its communications out. Still, it is staggering to think of all of the things NASA's scientists and engineers are achieving at such huge distances.
You can watch a video of the panorama here on YouTube.