Curiosity rover snaps first colour image of the Martian landscape

7 Aug 2012

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

So what has NASA’s rover Curiosity been doing on Mars since it touched down yesterday? Well, firstly, it has been taking a few snapshots of the landscape on the Red Planet, including its first colour image of Mars.

The world’s eyes were watching in anticipation on 5-6 August, depending on where you were, for the much-anticipated landing of the rover on Mars, following a 36-week flight.

According to the space agency, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Curiosity acquired this view of the landscape to the north of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity.

NASA said the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater, which Curiosity will be exploring over the next two years to determine whether conditions have ever supported microbial life on Mars.

The image appears a bit blurred, like a desert landscape obscured by a sandstorm. This is apparently because MAHLI’s removable dust cover is coated with dust that blew onto the camera during the rover’s descent onto Mars.

The MAHLI itself is located on the turret at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm. NASA said its transparent dust cover will not be opened until more than a week after the landing.

The camera has been sent up along with Curiosity to take close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover’s Gale Crater field site.

Life on Mars?

In a mission that has cost US$2.5bn, NASA has sent the probe to Mars to carry out a two-year investigation into whether life ever existed on the planet.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama described Curiosity as “the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet” and an “unprecedented feat of technology”.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic