On August 5, 2012, The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars for its two-year-long mission to look for signs of life on the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”
This image was featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday, but at a much larger and higher resolution. The composite image was constructed from 55 different images wherein the robotic arm holding the camera was digitally removed, making it appear as if it weren’t a self-portrait. Click on the image to enlarge.
To find out about the possibility of life (past or present), the rover carries the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the martian surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet’s climate and geology is essentially “written in the rocks and soil” — in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover’s onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.
Portions of the description above, came from the Mars Science Laboratory Overview website.