The Glory of Gale…

Some rather pretty pictures for you today… grab a coffee, you’re going to be here for a while…

Firstly, here’s a sharpened-up colour portrait I’ve made of “Jake”, the rock chosen to be the first to be studied in great detail by Curiosity’s suite of science instruments…

So that’s the whole rock – or as much of it as we can see. But the science team understandably want a closer look, so yesterday the rover’s robit arm reached out and positioned its “turret” of scientific instruments and tools close to the rock’s surface…

…and then took a whole bunch of photographs like this…

Said it before – I wish I knew more geology, so I could know what we’re seeing there…!

But, as pretty as these pictures are, I am finding myself drawn more and more to the horizon of Gale crater, because that’s where the most interesting landforms and landscapes are. Let’s face it, although the foothills of Mt Sharp – especially the mesas and buttes of the “Promised Land” region where Curiosity will eventually make ‘landfall’ – are pretty interesting, with a lot going on, the upper reaches of the crater’s central peak are pretty, well… boring, at least in the images seen so far. But look away from Mt Sharp, lower your eyes from its bland, beige summit, and look off to the distance, across the crater’s floor to the horizon, and there are *wonders* there…

Here’s an image from a day or so ago, looking roughly eastwards I think…

A few things stand out on that image: the rocky ground, scattered here and there with boulders and stones; the ridge inthe middle ground, beyond which the land dips down into a region of very complicated topography; the stark lines of the rover’s own hardware at the bottom…

But that image is dominated by something else. Mountains. On the horizon. Looming over the landscape, calling to you, beckoning you, at once both beautifully alien but oh so familiar…

Gale is essentially a huge circular mountain range, with a ruddy great mountain at its centre, surrounded by a moat of flat, dusty ground, scattered with stones. Curiosity is going to climb up the lower reaches of that central peak, but however high she gets, however far she drives, those mountains on the horizon, will always be there, watching over her, forever out of her reach.

Look at this 3D view, and you really do get a sense of how impressive they are…

Those mountains look blurry, grey, a little out of focus. This isn’t just because they’re far away, but also because they’re dimmed by the dust hanging in the air, like pollen grains on a hot summer’s day. We may have better views of them on sols when the atmosphere clears a little, when some of the dust in the air settles, allowing us to see them more clearly, but they will never look any bigger. Curiosity will only ever be driving away from them, never towards them. Take a look at that picture – that’s as good as it’s going to get.

Hmmm. Maybe not.

With a little processing, those mountains really jump out of the scene.

Here, then, is how I think Ansel Adams would have seen, and photographed, the faraway rim of Gale Crater…

Just think… One day, maybe in a couple of generations’ time, maybe in a century or so, people will stand where Curiosity is now. They’ll turn and look at the bulk of Mt Sharp rising up beside them, then look to the horizon, and see those mountains there – and set off towards them, intent on climbing them, standing on their summits, and looking down to see the Glory of Gale stretched out before them.

One thought on “The Glory of Gale…

  1. bkpr says:

    I check this site everyday, your photos and comments are making Curiosity’s exploration very very interesting. Thanks a lot for putting in all the work. Your efforts are amazing! It truly looks like a labor of love. This is a fantastic adventure with many discoveries about to unfold. I’ll be here the whole time…..

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