Image Credit: 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.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.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.
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.