Rover camera shows Red Planet in color

The Curiosity rover’s sent back the first images from its color Mast Camera (Mastcam), along with a 360-degree panorama of Gale Crater.

The 130 low-resolution thumbnails, which were received yesterday, are just the start.

“After a year in cold storage, where it endured the rigors of launch, the deep space cruise to Mars and everything that went on during landing, it is great to see our camera is working as planned,” says Mike Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, principal investigator of Mastcam.

“As engaging as this color panorama is, it is important to note this is only one-eighth the potential resolution of images from this camera.”

Curiosity’s also still beaming down high-resolution black-and-white images from its Navigation Camera (Navcam), now stitched together to provide a high-resolution panorama.

This includes a glimpse of the rover’s deck – on which a number of small Martian pebbles are now resting.

“The latest Navcam images show us the rocket engines on our descent stage kicked up some material from the surface of Mars, several pieces which ended up on our rover’s deck,” says Mike Watkins, mission manager for Curiosity.

“These small pebbles we currently see are up to about 0.4 inches in size and should pose no problems for mission operations. It will be interesting to see how long our hitchhikers stick around.”

Yesterday, mission engineers checked over four of Curiosity’s science instruments: the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, theChemistry and Mineralogy analyzer, the Sample Analysis at Mars and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, along with the rover’s second flight computer.

One of the next steps is to examine the geological maps created so far to pick a good route to Mount Sharp.