Old Horizons

Contributed by Francesca Cary

This cropped image, from a 360° panorama named Horizon, was one of the first Mastcam-Z ‘mosaic’ products I made from Perseverance rover data. This image drew me in immediately, giving me the feeling that I was really there. To see what I am talking about, try downloading the full image from here, view it in full screen, zoom right in, and scroll around! Can you spot the rover’s tire tracks, a dust devil, and the Ingenuity helicopter? 

The feeling of being there was partially due to how much the surface of Mars reminds me of the Nullarbor Plain – a desert in South Australia and one of the most remote places in the world – where I have spent much time partaking in field trips to track and recover fallen meteorites. 

Many aspects of this image share striking similarities to the Nullarbor. Aside from the rim of Jezero crater towering high in the background, the two locations share prominent features such as the flat and barren terrain, red dirt, ancient eroded rocks, arid climate, and even roughly the same amount of trees…

Additionally, drones often accompanied us to the Nullarbor to help us search for the meteorites, so seeing the Ingenuity helicopter (which is essentially an inter-planetary drone!) on the surface of Mars was yet another mirror to my experiences here on Earth. Inspiringly, in both places I have now been privileged enough to witness the first tire tracks made on otherwise untouched land.

This image, Horizon, was aptly named, and I look forward to the new horizons to come in the mission, and back to the old rocky horizons that inspired me to be here with the rover on Mars today.

(Left) This Mastcam-Z image is cropped from a 41×2 matrix of Mastcam-Z left camera images that were stitched together into an enhanced colour 360° mosaic called ‘Horizon’ and taken on mission Sol 114 (June 15, 2021; Site 4, Drive 1062, Sequence ID zcam08094, Zoom 63 mm). Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS. (Right) Wheel tracks on the Nullarbor Plains desert of South Australia. Photo credit: Francesca Cary. Click here for a full-resolution version of this montage.

June 15, 2021

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