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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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360° Driving on Mars
Hugh Bollinger

360° Driving on Mars


What would it be like to be a driver of a Mars rover? The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at CalTech in California has released a 360° panoramic video that allows you to do just that. NASA's Curiosity rover, managed by JPL, has been inching its way up the 3-mile high Mount Sharp on Mars and has captured a series of dramatic photos at an outcrop called Gediz Vallis Ridge on the mountain's slope.

According to the Lab, you can use your mouse to move around their 360-degree visual created with rover's images. Steep slopes, layered buttes, and black rocks are seen where Curiosity is positioned below the huge ridge. The formation resulted from massive water and debris flows that occurring during one of the last periods when water flowed on the Red Planet, ~3 billion years ago. The debris was later eroded by wind into the current towering structure. Mars lost most of its atmosphere and water to become the cold, dry desert it remains today.

The rover's camera (Mastcam) took numerous images at the ridge which were stitched together by JPL into a 360° mosaic video. The colors were adjusted to match conditions if the human eye viewed them at a geologic formation on Earth. Gediz Vallis Ridge was one of the last features to form on Mount Sharp that Curiosity has been carefully climbing for the past nine years. The dark rocks in the landscape were most likely carried down from higher up on the mountain. They offer an exciting opportunity to investigate material from the upper part of the mountain where they rover will not be able to venture. You can still take a 360° 'test drive' to view what the rover has seen. WHB

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