Curiosity’s tracks are visible in this view from orbit, acquired on April 11, 2014 by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Apr 18, 2014 Curiosity rover spied from orbit at next Red Planet drilling location

Sen—After an overland alien trek of many months and kilometers along rock strewn terrain, NASA’s mega rover Curiosity has at last arrived at a multilayered location that’s potentially a scientific goldmine in the quest for a Martian habitable zone, and that may have supported Martian microbial life in the distant past or even today if it ever existed.

Herein you’ll see Curiosity imaged from above and below on the exact same Martian day and within the past week.

The mission team is delighted that Curiosity finally reached the long sought spot dubbed “The Kimberley Waypoint” in early April 2014 because its virtually certain to be the location of the robots next drilling campaign into the Red Planet.  

“We are officially in ‘The Kimberley’ now,”  John Grotzinger, Curiosity Principal Investigator, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, told Sen.

Furthermore the six wheeled rover has just been spied from Mars orbit in dramatic new imagery acquired this past week on April 11, 2014, by the powerful telescopic camera aboard NASA ‘s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) soaring overhead - and just released by the agency.

The spectacular orbital image snapped by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) is so sharp that even the car sized rover itself and her wheel tracks are easily visible along the lengthy and circuitous path driven about the Kimberly region since mid March 2014 - and shown above.

An exquisite three dimensional version of the MRO HiRISE images of the Kimberly region is shown below.

Curiosity tracks

Three-dimensional view shows NASA's Curiosity Mars rover and its tracks at a multi-layered location called "the Kimberley in this view from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. View through red-blue glasses. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

For perspective, the robots wheel tracks are about 2.7 meters (9 feet) apart.

And be sure to get check out the corresponding ground level panoramic view of a magnificent Martian butte in “The Kimberley” taken by Curiosity through photo mosaics stitched by the image processing team of Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer (the author).    

Our colorized mosaic of images from Curiosity's Navigation Camera (Navcam) is centered on the butte named Mount Remarkable and shows a rover’s eye view of its surroundings captured on Sol 597 (April 11), the exact same day as the MRO orbital view seen above.

Sol 597

Curiosity Mars rover captured this panoramic view of a butte called "Mount Remarkable" and surrounding outcrops at “The Kimberley " waypoint on April 11, 2014. Colorized navcam photomosaic was stitched by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer. Click here for larger view. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

The Mount Remarkable butte stands about 5 meters (16 feet) high and is named after a mountain and national park in Australia.

Scientists specifically directed the 1 ton robot to “The Kimberly” based on imagery taken earlier in the mission by HiRISE that revealed at least four different rock types.

A source told me that the team will further investigate the outcrops surroundings Mount Remarkable for about another week in order to determine the most scientifically productive drilling location around the base.

“The Kimberley” has chosen [as a waypoint] because of interesting, complex stratigraphy,” Grotzinger told me.

“It is named after a remote region of western Australia.”

The focus of the mission has shifted to the search for preserved organic molecules - the building blocks of life.

The state-of-the-art robot already accomplished her primary goal of discovering a Martian habitable zone, based on thorough chemical analysis of rock samples from the two bore holes drilled in 2013 in the ancient lakebed region at Yellowknife Bay with the on board SAM and CheMin chemistry labs.

Curiosity still has some 4  kilometers of driving to go to reach the foothills at the base of towering Mount Sharp, her ultimate destination comprising many sedimentary layers which scientists hope will reveal the history of habitability on the Red Planet over billions of years.