by Jim Nintzel
The team behind the UA's HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released an astonishing image that captures the tire tracks of the Curiosity rover that's tooling across Gale Crater. HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen notes:
This image was acquired for color coverage of the region that the Curiosity rover may explore, but we acquired some extra RED (monochromatic) coverage of the rover tracks.
This image shows the entire distance traveled from the landing site (dark smudge at left) to its location as of 2 January 2013 (the rover is bright feature at right). The tracks are not seen where the rover has recently driven over the lighter-toned surface, which may be more indurated than the darker soil.
You can find out more about what Curiosity is up to here. Spoiler warning: The little robot is set to start using its laser to drill into some Mars rock.
BTW, what was with Danehy's weird aside about the space program in this week's issue? I wasn't happy to hear we were retiring the space shuttles (and I'd be happy to see NASA's budget increased), but the Curiosity mission is just one example of a healthy space program. Right here in Tucson, not that long ago, we put a different robot on the Arctic plains of Mars. The UA is working on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is going to grab a sample off an asteroid in a few years. And UA scientists are part of the team that's working on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be replacing the Hubble in a few years. If that's not enough to inspire America to "again become a nation of people who dream and strive and reach," what is? (Given the scientific advances we make in this country, I don't think we've ever lost our ability to dream and strive and reach, although it'd be nice if more kids were interested in science, engineering and math.)
And Tom, please don't tell me that robot space exploration doesn't count. Given that you don't have qualms about robotic law enforcement, it would just be chauvinistic if you're anti-robot when it comes to outer space.