Just because you can’t take a bus to Mars doesn’t mean you can’t do a little Red Planet sightseeing. This week, NASA presented a panoramic video of a tour of the planet’s surface, with images captured by the Curiosity rover, which is now completing 9 years on Mars.
The rover captured the 360-degree images on July 3 near Rafael Navarro Mountain — which NASA named after the astrobiologist who worked on the mission and died in January.
Altogether there are 129 individual images glued together to assemble the panorama. The colors were white-balanced to replicate how Mars would look like the kind of sunlight we have on Earth, NASA explained in a press release.
Take a look:
The rover has been traveling through Crater Gale, a 154-kilometer-wide basin in Mare, since its first landing in 2012.
The video shows a very clear landscape because it’s winter on Mars and there’s less dust in the air. So you can see the crater bottom in the images.
These photos also offer some interesting insights into how the planet has evolved over millions of years. The region Curiosity had previously explored was dominated by clay-rich rocks that formed in lakes, but it is now finding rocks full of salty minerals called sulfates.
“These rocks will show us how this planet, which was once wet, became this dry Mars we know today. And also how much habitable environments persisted after this happened,” said Abigail Fraeman, assistant scientist for the Curiosity project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
It is in this ancient Martian environment that scientists believe life must have existed on the planet. And that’s why Curiosity and Perseverance (the latest rover NASA sent to the Red Planet) are out there looking for clues to life.
Next year Curiosity will go beyond Rafael Navarro Mountain and enter one the size of a four-story building. Finally, you’ll enter a narrow gorge before revisiting a sandstone-topped slope dubbed the Greenheug Pediment.