Monday, August 13, 2012

Curiosity sends back hi-res pictures from Mars

About a week ago, NASA's latest space project Curiosity landed on Mars. The car-sized machine with a built-in laboratory is now fully operational, and managed to send a few high-resolution photos back to earth. The Martian landscape is visible in vivid colours and looks much like a typical rock desert on earth. A few of NASA's Mars pictures can be found below.

Curiosity takes its high resolution pictures with the Mastcam, located on top of the rover, as visualized in the picture below. It is capable of taking stunning pictures, and NASA has just released the first one. So far, there were only a few low-resolution black-and-white pictures available.
The picture
According to NASA, the picture is a mosaic of 79 individual pictures, creating a panorama of the area around the Gale Crater, which is where Curiosity landed. It looks quite similar to an ordinary rock desert on earth, but it really is a different planet that you are looking at. The black spots represent parts that have not yet been sent back to us: the Curiosity has to transmit data wirelessly back to earth, which obviously is not that fast.
Panorama around the Gale Crater. Click here for a bigger version.
While NASA has not officially released them yet, there are more high-resolution pictures to be found. You can find a couple of examples below, but there are probably many more to come. It is likely we will see some pretty spectacular images coming from Mars in the following months. And while so far the pictures may seem like they have been taken in a desolated desert on earth, it is really fascinating to think that we human beings have put a machine on a different planet, which coincidentally looks a bit like ours.

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