“Before I scaled the hill, I took this self-portrait.”

By Cailey Rizzo
March 25, 2020
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NASA’s Curiosity rover recently set a record for the steepest hill it’s ever climbed, and  to commemorate the achievement, the rover took a selfie — naturally.

During its explorations of the red planet, Curiosity had to climb over the Greenheugh Pediment at a 31-degree tilt. The only other steep climb that had been previously done was completed by the Opportunity rover when it scaled a 32-degree hill on Mars in 2016.

“It took three drives, and was worth it,” Curiosity ‘wrote’ on Twitter. “Before I scaled the hill, I took this self-portrait.”

But no normal selfie-stick snapshot would do for the Curiosity rover. The selfie is a 360-degree panorama stitched together from 86 images taken by a robotic arm. The photos were shot using a Mars Hand Lens Camera, or MAHLI, at the end of the robotic arm.

The MAHLI is able to take close-up pictures of Mars’s sand grains and rock textures, similar to how a geologist would use a magnifying glass on Earth. When the camera turns around, it’s able to snap selfies of the rover in action.

The rover is designed to be able to climb hills of up to 45 degrees, but sometimes its wheels get stuck during the ascent, according to NASA. But it was never in danger of tipping over. Its drivers back on Earth carefully plan each drive to keep Curiosity safe and able to complete its Mars mission.

Since 2014, Curiosity has been exploring Mars’  Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall mountain at the center of Gale Crater, and sending images back to Earth.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Earlier this month, the rover released the highest resolution photo ever taken of Mars. The 1.8-billion pixel panorama shows the Martian landscape in unprecedented detail.