Curiosity snaps a selfie as it explores ‘Mary Anning’ on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover is waiting to be joined on Mars by its sibling Perseverance, set to land on the red planet in February next year. But in the meantime, Curiosity is keeping busy with its own research, and has recently snapped a striking selfie as it explored a region known as “Mary Anning.”

The rover drilled three holes to search for organic molecules in the rocks, and having concluded its experiments, it is now moving on to its next target. But before it departed the area, it took this image of itself by the drill sites.

“Curiosity took the selfie using a camera called the Mars Hand Lens Imager located on the end of its robotic arm,” NASA said in a blog post. “A close-up detail from within the selfie shows the three holes that a rock drill, also found on the end of Curiosity’s arm, added to the surface. The three drill holes are named ‘Mary Anning,’ ‘Mary Anning 3,’ and ‘Groken,’ the last name coming from a site of geological interest in the Scottish countryside.”

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took this selfie at a location nicknamed "Mary Anning" after a 19th century English paleontologist. Curiosity snagged three samples of drilled rock at this site on its way out of the Glen Torridon region, which scientists believe preserves an ancient habitable environment.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this selfie at a location nicknamed “Mary Anning” after a 19th century English paleontologist. Curiosity snagged three samples of drilled rock at this site on its way out of the Glen Torridon region, which scientists believe preserves an ancient habitable environment. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This location is named after a 19th-century paleontologist who is famous for discovering and classifying Jurassic fossils on the coast of Dorset in the U.K. The Curiosity team chose to name this area in her honor to reflect her often-overlooked contribution to the science of early life forms, as they explain in a blog post: “Mary Anning spent her life scouring the seaside cliffs near Lyme Regis, along the southern coast of England, for fossils. She uncovered innumerable samples, most notably the first full Ichthyosaur and the first Plesiosaur. But as all too often occurs in society, Mary Anning’s gender and societal status led her groundbreaking work and discoveries to be dismissed by the scientific establishment or, worse, appropriated by men.”

The rover is now checking out the “Maybole” outcrop, which is an unusual ledge of particular interest to geologists. The team wants to know whether the outcrop is a different type of rock to the lower terrain surrounding it and whether it might have features in common with the sulfate unit which the rover is heading toward.

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