Mars Rover Curiosity Comes in Peace With High-Resolution Camera

With its mast up, Curiosity will send back its best pictures yet from Mars

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Thursday, Aug 9, 2012  |  Updated 12:50 PM PDT
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Redlands Scientist Adds Color to Curiosity

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A portion of the 360-degree images stitched together from high-resolution pictures from the Mars rover's recently deployed mast camera. The gray splotches in front of the rover are scour marks caused by the massive thrusters used to delicately drop Curiosity on the planet's surface.

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Redlands Scientist Adds Color to Curiosity

Dr. Tyler Nordgren contributed to the Mars Rover Curiosity by designing its sundial, designed to help the rover's camera take color photos to better illustrate what Mars really looks like. Jacob Rascon reports from Redlands for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 6, 2012.
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Rover Curiosity elevated its mast overnight for the first time since landing in Mars' Gale Crater, providing scientists with a high-resolution look at the planet's surface in color.

And, the images reminded them of a familiar place.

"The first impression that you get is how Earth-like this seems looking at that landscape," chief scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology, said during an update on the mission.

The most recent images include a 360-degree color panorama made from thumbnails of mast camera images. Some pictures show a haze above the planet's surface and mountains on the northern horizon.

Curiosity also took a self-portrait.

Near the rover, scour marks caused by thrusters used during Sunday night's landing revealed bedrock, which might yield information for researchers. At the briefing Thursday, scientists said "there is an awful lot of eagerness" to study the rock composition -- and to use Curiosity's laser.

In the 360-degree photo, the scour marks appear as gray splotches. One of the rover's heavily treaded wheels can be seen in the foreground.

The 130 images that compose the 360-degree view were taken late Wednesday with a 34mm camera mounted on the mast.

Most of the pictures sent back so far have been low-resolution images provided by cameras under the rover and another on its robotic arm. But the mast packs a more powerful high-resolution camera, allowing the rover to send back better views of its Martian mission.

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