NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover snaps stunning selfie, starts new adventure on the Red Planet

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has captured an incredible selfie on the surface of the Red Planet.

“The selfie is composed of 57 individual images taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm,” explains NASA in a statement. The images were then stitched together into a panorama.

The selfie was taken on Jan. 15 and is the last one captured by the rover on Mars’ Vera Rubin ridge, NASA explained. The panoramic picture was taken at the “Rock Hall” drill site on Vera Rubin ridge. After taking the epic picture, the robot left the ridge and traveled to a clay region of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity has been exploring the twisting Vera Rubin ridge since September 2017. “It’s now headed into the ‘clay-bearing unit,’ which sits in a trough just south of the ridge,” said NASA in the statement released Monday. “Clay minerals in this unit may hold more clues about the ancient lakes that helped form the lower levels on Mount Sharp.”

The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012 and has more than 12 miles on its odometer. In November Curiosity was joined on the Red Planet by NASA’s Insight Mars Lander.

NASA’s Opportunity rover, which was launched in July 2003, remains inoperable on the Red Planet following a June 2018 Martian dust storm. The rover is now feared ‘dead,’ although the space agency is still sending commands to the probe in the hope of receiving a response.

Mars looms large in America’s space future.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could have visited Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.

In November 2018 NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article.