NASA Curiosity rover snaps selfies on Martian sand dune (PHOTOS)

Self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. © NASA
NASA released the latest image of Curiosity, resplendent on Mars’ Namib Dune. The image is a composite of 57 selfie photos the car-sized Martian rover shot on a sand dune where it was collecting soil samples for laboratory analysis.

The self-portrait shows the rover scuffing the edge of the Namib Dune and collecting the first three scoops of sand from the dune. The grains are dumped on the ground after being sorted with a sieve.

The 57 images for the composite were taken on January 19 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, which is fixed on the robotic arm of Curiosity Mars rover. As for scale, the rover’s six wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide.

“The rover has been investigating a group of active sand dunes for two months, studying how the wind moves and sorts sand particles on Mars,” said NASA in a statement. “The site is part of Bagnold Dune Field, which lines the northwestern flank of Mars' Mount Sharp.”

Interestingly, dunes in the Bagnold Field move as much as about 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year, according to NASA.

Comments on social media have focused on the supposed missing arm in the selfies. NASA said the arm was positioned out of the shot of the images that were used to make the composite.

Along with the selfie, NASA also released a picture of the sand grains that were dumped by Curiosity after sorting them through a sieve. The clarity of the image was created using electric lights in the camera.

Earlier this month, NASA released other images of the Red Planet’s soil, which were up close and in such great detail that individual grains can be distinguished and analyzed.

Researchers are evaluating possible sites for the next use of Curiosity’s drill, which would collect rock-powder samples of the bedrock in the area.

The robot has been exploring Mars since 2012. Its mission is to investigate whether the planet can support life, which could range from small microbes to, potentially, humans.