Latest Curiosity images show rover's mission on Mars

This image taken by NASA's Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, informally called Mount Sharp Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the highest peak of Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers), taller than Mt. Whitney in California. NASA/JPL-Caltech

(CBS/AP) NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is on its second day on the Red Planet. Before serious exploration gets underway, the rover is going through a battery of tests to ensure all equipment is functioning properly. Some of these tests involve calibrating its many cameras, offering some of the latest images of Mars.

Slideshow: Curiosity lands on Mars

Since parking itself inside an ancient crater Sunday night, the Curiosity rover has delighted scientists with views of its new surroundings, including the 3-mile-high mountain it will drive to. It beamed back the first color picture Tuesday revealing a tan-hued, pebbly landscape and the crater rim off in the distance.

Here, NASA provides some perspective for that first, cockeyed landscape photo. The black-and-white scenes on either side of the tipped-up center rectangle are computer simulations built from data provided by two orbiting satellites, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Mars Express.
ASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity's journey to Mars spanned eight months and 352 million miles. The rover gently touched down Sunday night after executing an elaborate and untested landing routine. The size of a compact car, it was too heavy to land using air bags. Instead, it relied on a heat shield, parachute, rockets and cables to lower it to the ground.

During its seven-minute plunge through the atmosphere, Curiosity shed the spacecraft parts. On Tuesday, scientists got their first view of the castoffs. The eagle-eyed Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had circled over the landing site and spotted Curiosity and the scattered parts.

"It's like a crime scene photo," said Sarah Milkovich, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist.

First full-resolution images from Curiosity Mars rover
RAW NASA CAPTION: These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground.The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters.
NASA/JPL-Caltech


The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots the landing sight of Curiosity.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots the landing sight of Curiosity.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists have high hopes for the potential discoveries Curiosity could make on Mars. It'll be several weeks before it takes its first drive and flexes its robotic arm. Since landing, engineers have been busy performing health checkups on its systems and instruments. Early Wednesday, a flood of black-and-white pictures of the Martian horizon and rover's deck poured in, which NASA will use to stitch together a panorama. Over the next several days, Curiosity was poised to send back even better pictures, including a 360-degree color view.

A view from one of Curiosity's navigation cameras shows the rim of Gale Crater, the rover's landing spot.
A view from one of Curiosity's navigation cameras shows the rim of Gale Crater, the rover's landing spot.
NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA's Curiosity rover is sending back video and pictures of its landing on Mars. Watch video at left.
  • Bailey Johnson

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