NASA’s new rover Curiosity landed on Mars Sunday night in order to search for evidence that Mars once harbored or could in the future harbor microbial life, snapped its first color image Tuesday. The color photo reveals the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The picture proves that key instruments, particularly a camera known as the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, were in good working order following the rover’s descent to the planet’s surface Sunday.
Designed to take magnified, close-up images of rocks and other objects, or wide shots of landscapes, the camera currently remains stowed on the rover’s deck. But once in full operation, scientists can use it to capture fine details with a resolution as high as 13.9 microns per pixel — several times finer than the width of a human hair.
“It works. It’s awesome. Can’t wait to open it and see what else we can see,” Curiosity scientist Ken Edgett told reporters on Tuesday.
The latest images were relayed to Earth during the rover’s first full day on the Red Planet, following a descent through the Martian atmosphere and touchdown on Sunday night that NASA hailed as the most elaborate and challenging ever in robotic spaceflight.
The $2.5 billion project is NASA’s first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes of the 1970s, and the landing came as a much-welcome success for a space agency beleaguered by science budget cuts and the recent cancellation of its 30-year-old space shuttle program. Source: Reuters