Mars Curiosity Sends Images with 360 Degree Color View
NASA's Curiosity rover vehicle has sent the first images captured from the color mast camera, or Mastacm. These images were received by the scientists at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The 130 low-resolution thumbnails, which were received Thursday morning provides scientists and engineers first horizon-to-horizon glimpse of Gale Crater in color.
"After a year in cold storage, where it endured the rigors of launch, the deep space cruise to Mars and everything that went on during landing, it is great to see our camera is working as planned," said Mike Malin, principal investigator of the Mastcam instrument from Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "As engaging as this color panorama is, it is important to note this is only one-eighth the potential resolution of images from this camera."
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Since landing Sunday night for a two-year mission, NASA's six-wheel rover has been sending home high-resolution black-and-white images from its Navigation Camera, or Navcam.
"The latest Navcam images show us that the rocket engines on our descent stage kicked up some material from the surface of Mars, several pieces which ended up on our rover's deck," said Mike Watkins, mission manager for Curiosity from JPL. "These small pebbles we currently see are up to about 1 centimeter [0.4 inch] in size and should pose no problems for mission operations. It will be interesting to see how long our hitchhikers stick around."
The rover's Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Chemistry and Mineralogy analyzer, Sample Analysis at Mars, and Dynamic of Albedo Neutrons instruments were energized and went through a preliminary checkout. The team also performed a check on the rover's second flight computer.
During its two-year mission, the roaming laboratory will analyze rocks and soil in search of the chemical building blocks of life and determine whether there were habitable conditions for microbes to thrive. As high-tech as Curiosity is, it can't directly look for past or present life; future missions would be needed to answer that question.
"It is important to understand the geological context around Curiosity," said Dawn Sumner of the University of California, a member of the Curiosity science team. "We want to choose a route to Mount Sharp that makes good progress toward the destination while allowing important science observations along the way.
The mapping project divided the area into 151 quadrangles of about one square mile (about 2.6 square kilometers) each. Curiosity landed in the quadrangle called Yellowknife.
Curiosity is the most complex interplanetary rover ever designed, and engineers are taking their time performing health checkups. The rover will not make its first drive or move its robotic arm for weeks.