It’s been a big weekend for the Curiosity rover. First, it took a new Facebook profile pic (with flattering shot-from-above camera angle, but thankfully free of duck lips).
Actually, Curiosity shot this selfie on Aug. 7, but it was just released on Saturday. And somehow it’s even cooler, at least to me, than shots of the surface of Mars with no rover in sight. It’s like vacation snaps — if you don’t take at least one with you in it, then all you’ve got are a bunch of artsy shots of Wales or whatever, not memories. If I were Curiosity’s mom, this is the one I’d frame.
Or maybe I’d frame this artist’s conception of Curiosity blowing up a rock.
That’s the other thing the rover got up to this weekend — wicked pyrotechnics with its head-mounted laser. By “wicked pyrotechnics” I mean chipping a 0.3-inch divot out of a rock the size of a fist, but hey, each laser pulse delivers a million watts (for a few billionths of a second, granted). Plus NASA calls it “laser interrogation” which, I’m sorry, is badass.
Also badass: The fact that the rover’s Chemistry and Camera array records the light sparked up by the laser vaporizing rock, and analyzes that light to figure out the rock’s chemical composition. That’s even more “hello, you live in the future now, love NASA” than just landing a robot on Mars.