NASA’s Curiosity Rover has gone into bold new territory, going beyond what the agency had initially deemed a “safe zone” as it continues to scour for signs of life. The agency’s HiRISE camera, which is currently equipped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, snapped a really neat picture at the exact moment Curiosity crossed martian lines.
When Curiosity landed on Mars back in 2012, NASA had set up a landing ellipse, which is an area that researchers felt met requirements to provide access to scientifically interesting sites. The area also posed very few landing hazards, making Curiosity’s journey much easier.
Many areas of scientific interest have slopes ineligible for landing safety, and Curiosity was designed to have the capability of driving far enough to get to slopes outside of the landing ellipse, NASA said. Since landing, Curiosity has driven slightly more than 5 miles.
Curiosity is still perfectly safe, though it’s just beyond the 4 by 12 mile ellipse NASA drew up when the rover initially landed. NASA says that now that Curiosity is outside the safe-to-land ellipse, the rover can start exploring much more interesting terrain. “The rover can drive around landscape features that would have been dangerous to land on,” NASA said. “Both the scenery and geology should be even more exciting in the next Mars year (687 Earth days).