On its 3,800th sol, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover photographed a book-like rock, “Terra Firme,” a result of water depositing harder minerals and wind erosion shaping it over time.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this close-up view of a rock nicknamed “Terra Firme” that looks like the open pages of a book, on April 15, 2023, the 3,800th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the end of its robotic arm. The rock is about an inch across (2.5 centimeters).
Rocks with unusual shapes are common on Mars, and often were formed by water seeping through cracks in a rock in the ancient past, bringing harder minerals along with them. After eons of being sand-blasted by the wind, softer rock is carved away and the harder materials are all that’s left.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is a car-sized, mobile laboratory that was launched in November 2011 and successfully landed on Mars in August 2012. It is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, designed to explore the Gale Crater on Mars and analyze its climate, geology, and the potential for past and present habitability. Equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, and sensors, Curiosity has been conducting experiments and collecting data to help scientists understand the planet’s history and evolution. Its most significant discoveries include evidence of ancient riverbeds and the presence of organic molecules, which suggest the possibility that Mars once harbored microbial life.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, leads the Curiosity mission. Curiosity captured the image using a camera called the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the end of its robotic arm. It is essentially the rover’s version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field. MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.