Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems
This view of the landscape to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the afternoon of the first day after landing. (The team calls this day Sol 1, which is the first Martian day of operations; Sol 1 began on Aug. 6, 2012.)
In the distance, the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The image is murky because the MAHLI's removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover's terminal descent. Images taken without the dust cover in place are expected during checkout of the robotic arm in coming weeks.
The MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. At the time the MAHLI Sol 1 image was acquired, the robotic arm was in its stowed position. It has been stowed since the rover was packaged for its Nov. 26, 2011, launch.
The MAHLI has a transparent dust cover. This image was acquired with the dust cover closed. The cover will not be opened until more than a week after the landing.
When the robotic arm, turret, and MAHLI are stowed, the MAHLI is in a position that is rotated 30 degrees relative to the rover deck. The MAHLI image shown here has been rotated to correct for that tilt, so that the sky is "up" and the ground is "down".
When the robotic arm, turret, and MAHLI are stowed, the MAHLI is looking out from the front left side of the rover. This is much like the view from the driver's side of cars sold in the USA.
Mars panorama shows Curiosity's prime target
(CNN) -- Mars rover Curiosity beamed back a sweeping color panorama of the planet's surface Thursday, showing the rocky, reddish desert surrounding it and the mountain it will explore in the coming months.
The 360-degree view captures the landscape of Gale Crater, where Curiosity touched down early Monday, and the foot of Mount Sharp -- the rover's primary scientific target. Mike Malin, whose company built the camera used to shoot the scene, said the shot was "probably not the best pointed," but added, "We hope we'll get many others."
The brightness of the image was boosted to compensate for the dim sunlight of the martian afternoon, but the colors were untouched, NASA said.
Curiosity went through its paces "flawlessly" on its third full day on the planet, mission manager Michael Watkins said Thursday. The rover's mission is to determine whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting life, and its prime target is Mount Sharp, the 18,000-foot (5,500-meter) peak about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to the south.
Scientists hope the layers of rock that form the mountain will give them a timeline of the history of Mars. Curiosity mission planner Dawn Sumner said photographs like the ones beamed back by the rover, as well as others taken by probes in orbit, will be used to map a path to the mountain's base -- "doing the best science we can along the way, but also keeping our eyes on that beautiful layered rock," she said.
The rover is supposed to run for two years, but a previous rover, Opportunity, has been working on Mars since 2004 -- well beyond the three months NASA planned. Opportunity's sister rover, Spirit, ran from 2004 to 2010.