It might be stranded 48,678,219 miles away, but Nasa's Curiosity rover, on a mission to explore the surface of Mars, isn't immune to the latest Earth trends. As well as its more mundane duties – analysing soil and rock samples and radioing them back home – the rover, a car-sized robot active since 2012, has also found the time to take and tweet the odd selfie now and again.
Its latest effort, a composite of 57 photos taken on 19 January using a camera attached to the end of its arm, is a panoramic shot taken at the Namib Dune in the foothills of the planet's Mount Sharp.
Showing what can only be described as an endless landscape of dingy brown, the image demonstrates the kind of terrain that Curiosity is attempting to analyse. As well as examining the chemical make-up of the sand, Nasa scientists are using it to investigate how sand dunes form and move in conditions with less atmosphere and gravity than on Earth.
In the process of collecting these samples, an element Curiosity's sample-processing device stopped working. The thwack actuator, which is designed to tap the sampler to clear the sieve of old sand, is not properly responding to commands, so it has been powered down while mission control runs diagnostics.
"The rover responded properly to this unexpected event," said Steve Lee, deputy project manager for Curiosity at Nasa in California. "It stopped moving the actuator and halted further use of the arm and sampling system."
While the team waits for the diagnostics to be completed, Curiosity is deploying its environmental measuring instruments and measuring wind strength and direction.
This isn't the first time Curiosity has sent selfies back from Mars. It sent one back on its first Martian anniversary in 2014 – celebrating 687 Earth days. It has now been on the planet for 1,239 sols (Martian days) in total, travelling the area around Mount Sharp and gathering information on the history and formation of the red planet. Once it finishes analysing samples from the Namib dune, it will move to a new area and begin once again drilling for rock-powder samples.