A vivid scene of sandy plain on
the rim of Gale Crater was faithfully captured by the latest Mars
rover Curiosity as NASA published the first of a batch of color
pictures the vehicle beamed back on Tuesday.
The beaming of the picture, as well as a low-resolution video, suggests that the vehicle had a "very exciting ride to the surface, " NASA announced in a prepared statement.
"These images will help the mission scientists interpret the rover's surroundings, the rover drivers in planning for future drives across the surface, as well as assist engineers in their design of forthcoming landing systems for Mars or other worlds," NASA added.
The photograph showed a pebbly landscape and the rim of Gale Crater off in the distance. In the video depicting the final 2 1/2 minutes of Curiosity's descent onto the Martian terrain, the craft can be seen against a large swath of mountains in the background.
Earlier, NASA had released a black-and-white image captured by the spacecraft after it successfully touched down on the Red Planet early Monday. The pictures showed that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was still encased in the descent capsule as it sailed under a parachute 210 miles (336 km) below.
Packed with 17 cameras to shoot high-quality photos and videos in black-and-white, color, and 3-D stereo, as well as 10 sophisticated science instruments on board, Curiosity is undoubtedly the embodiment of the great progress in multiple technologies used in the exploration of the Red Planet.
The mission aims to explore if Mars could be inhabitable for human beings and look for clues of planetary changes. By analyzing data sent back by it, NASA researchers can look into the composition of rocks and samples from the barren surface.
There will now be several weeks of systems checks before the six- wheeled, nuclear-powered rover begins to move across the Martian surface.
The car-size craft, weighing 900 kg, is five times heavier than its rover predecessors Spirit and Opportunity, both of which made their Mars landing in 2004.
The $2.5-billion Mars Science Laboratory, the formal name of the mission deploying the Curiosity rover, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Nov. 26, 2011.
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