NASA has released a video showing the rugged surface of Mars from the perspective of its Curiosity space rover.
The rover is close to finishing a crossing of the most rugged and difficult-to-navigate terrain it has tackled since arriving on the red planet in 2012 to explore the Gale Crater.
The rover climbed onto the knobbly, wind-eroded Naukluft Plateau of lower Mount Sharp – which stands in the middle of the Gale Crater – in early March.
Curiosity earlier this month shot a panorama from what NASA said were the “highest viewpoints” the rover has reached.
“The scenes show wind-sculpted textures in the sandstone bedrock close to the rover, and Gale Crater’s rim rising above the crater floor in the distance,” NASA said in a statement.
The next part of Curiosity’s journey will take it to three sites that have been key destinations since the rover landed.
One of those sites is hoped to offer scientists a better understanding of how long conditions on the planet could have supported microbial life, if it ever did.
Rocky surface not a problem for Curiosity’s wheels
The rocky surface of the plateau raised concerns about how Curiosity’s wheels would fare during its trek.
But NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory deputy project manager Steve Lee said the rover’s wheels were carefully and continually monitored, and that the rover was still expected to reach its key destinations.
“Cracks and punctures have been gradually accumulating at the pace we anticipated,” he said in a statement.
“Given our longevity projections, I am confident these wheels will get us to the destinations on Mount Sharp that have been in our plans since before landing.”