The Curiosity rover had sent more remarkable images from Mars’ surface, including the first 360-degree view of its surroundings, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which operates Curiosity, has said.
The images from Curiosity’s just-activated navigation cameras, or Navcams, after the mast has been lifted, include the rover’s first self-portrait, looking down at its deck from above. Another Navcam image set, in lower-resolution thumbnails, is the first 360-degree view of Curiosity’s new home in Gale Crater.
Also, two higher-resolution Navcams have provided the most detailed depiction to date of Mars surface adjacent to the rover.
“These Navcam images indicate that our powered descent stage did more than give us a great ride, it gave our science team an amazing freebie,” said John Grotzinger, project scientist for the mission from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“The thrust from the rockets actually dug a one-and-a-half-foot-long trench in the surface. It appears we can see Martian bedrock on the bottom. Its depth below the surface is valuable data we can use going forward,” Mr. Grotzinger added.
Jennifer Trosper, JPL project systems manager, said the rover has deployed its seven—foot mast, which holds cameras and science and communications instruments. She said the rover has established full communications with Earth and has more power output than expected.
“The rover works perfectly,” she said.
Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger compared one of the new images sent from Mars to the Mojave Desert at a press briefing Wednesday.
“It’ s quite an experience to be looking at a place that feels really comfortable” and familiar, he said. “What’ s going to be interesting is finding out all the ways that it’ s different.” Scientists know that the crater where Curiosity is situated was covered with water in the past, and the rover itself may well be sitting on the edge of what was once a river delta. Three-mile high Mount Sharp also sits in the midst of the 100 miles in diameter crater, and will be a major focus of the mission, according to JPL.
High-resolution close-up images released Wednesday also show what appear to be pebbles and gravel over a layer of what scientist believe is bedrock. One set of images also shows a small nearby indentation with exposed rock.
“You can see a harder, rocky surface under gravel and pebbles,” Mr. Grotzinger said, indicating that the site could become the rover’ s first destination.