Of Over Eight Years, On Barsoom: About Five Of It Marched On, In Utter Silence — Yet So Much Is/Was Gained… Curiosity Posts A Selfie, While Drilling.

It was August 18, 2012, that Curiosity first pinged back to Earth with a color image, of its surroundings.

Much the same happened here, on other fronts — while over these eight long years, much of the work has been completed in. . . silence, alone — in the deep dark distance of space and time.

Even so, as R.A. Delmonico reminds us — though discovery is often solitary work, it need not be lonely — it is all ultimately a matter of. . . “rearranging possibilities,” afterall. Smile. In any event, here is the latest, from NASA’s JPL — of selfies, and the slow work of drilling of a rock, on Barsoom, called Mary Anning. We will keep a weather eye on our southern skies:

. . .Made up of 59 pictures stitched together by imaging specialists, the selfie (at right) was taken on Oct. 25, 2020 – the 2,922nd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission.

Scientists on the Curiosity team thought it fitting to name the sampling site after Anning because of the area’s potential to reveal details about the ancient environment. Curiosity used the rock drill on the end of its robotic arm to take samples from three drill holes called “Mary Anning,” “Mary Anning 3,” and “Groken,” this last one named after cliffs in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The robotic scientist has conducted a set of advanced experiments with those samples to extend the search for organic (or carbon-based) molecules in the ancient rocks.

Since touching down in Gale Crater in August 2012, Curiosity has been ascending Mount Sharp to search for conditions that might once have supported life. This past year, the rover has explored a region of Mount Sharp called Glen Torridon, which likely held lakes and streams billions of years ago. Scientists suspect this is why a high concentration of clay minerals and organic molecules was discovered there. . . .

It will take months for the team to interpret the chemistry and minerals in the samples from the Mary Anning site. In the meantime, the scientists and engineers who have been commanding the rover from their homes as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic have directed Curiosity to continue its climb of Mount Sharp. . . .

Onward, and though it works in silence, there alone — soon (around Valentines, 2021) it will share the red planet with another, called Perserverance. . . . and that makes it not so lonely, afterall. Grin.

Indeed, we shall keep a close watch on this particular horizon — as the light winds of Barsoom stir us, viscerally.

. . .Mars, a coal of fire is rising,

Rising slowly in the summer twilight sky

Fierce it glows beyond the pine trees,

With a redness all its own,

Rising lonely, while the night breeze

Stirs the branches, with a moan. . . .

Catherine Cate Coblentz,
Mars Hill, Lowell Observatory
Flagstaff, Arizona 1924

Indeed. She climbs into the colder winter night’s skies. . . with a moan. Smile.


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