Mars is the only known planet in the universe inhabited solely by robots. There’s InSight, the sturdy robo-stethoscope listening for the Red Planet’s heartbeat; there’s Odyssey and the gang, a cadre of droids surveilling the planet from orbit. And then, climbing a lonely crater hundreds of miles away from its companions, there’s Curiosity, the last surviving rover on Mars.
About the size of an SUV and capable of traveling 100 feet (30 meters) per hour, Curiosity has been exploring the 3.5-billion-year-old pit called Gale Crater since landing there in 2012. Now, Curiosity is climbing the mountain, known as Mount Sharp or Aeolis Mons, at the crater’s center. In a bleak and beautiful photo taken on the 2,573rd Martian day of Curiosity’s mission (Nov. 1), the rover showed off the vast emptiness of this rocky domain.
In the new picture, posted to NASA’s Mars mission website, a debris-strewn butte curves up toward the mountain’s side while an enormous ridge of hazy rock looms in the background. That ridge is actually the rim of Gale Crater, fencing the rover in for about 50 miles (80 kilometers) in every direction.