Mars Orbiter Spies on Curiosity's Work Site

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Curiosity may feel distant and isolated, but its orbital buddy is never far away.

The one-ton NASA Mars rover is currently preparing for drilling operations in a location dubbed "the Kimberley" (named after the western region of Australia). Planetary geologists hope that the relatively newly-exposed rock formation there will reveal pristine samples of organic material that may be used for further study to investigate the Red Planet's ancient habitable potential.

Year One: Mars Rover Curiosity's Key Discoveries

But as Curiosity works, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently got an orbiter-eye-view on the rover with its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, revealing the robot's rectangular frame and wheel tracks weaving between the rocky obstacles on Aeolis Palus, the plain that Curiosity is currently exploring on its way to Aeolis Mons -- the 5 kilometer-high mountain inside Gale Crater nicknamed "Mount Sharp."

As seen in this photograph, Curiosity is approaching a 16 foot (5 meter) high rocky slope called a butte -- known to the MSL team as "Mount Remarkable" -- where it will soon begin drilling and analysing samples with its on board chemistry lab.

Sources: JPL, Univ. of Ariz.