Curiosity sends its first panoramic color photo of Mars

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A color picture of Mars taken by the robot Curiosity, published by NASA August 9, 2012

Aug 10, Pasadena: The U.S. space agency, NASA, has released the first color image transmitted by the mars rover Curiosity. This color photo can appreciate more clearly the Sharp Mountain, a mountain of height on which the machine will do its exploration.

After eight months of space travel and two days succeeding landing on Mars, Curiosity finally sends its first color image showing the north wall and the crater rim of Gale where the famous Mount Sharp. A first shot to score a long series of images to be as revealing as each other in the coming months.

Mount Sharp, stands at the center of the vast, ancient impact crater and several miles from where Curiosity touched down at the end of an eight-month voyage across 352 million mile (566 million km) of space.

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (Mahli) attached to the end of the rover’s mechanical arm will soon be providing images with much higher resolution, up to 13.9 microns per pixel. Clarity that will appreciate the fine details and to conclude whether microbial life could have or may exist on this planet closest to Earth.

“It’s very exciting to think about getting there, but it is quite a ways away,” said mission scientist Dawn Sumner of the University of California, Davis.

Though it’s the sharpest view yet of the landing site, the panorama was stitched together from thumbnails while scientists waited for better quality pictures to be downloaded.

Since safely landing Sunday night, Curiosity has dazzled scientists with peeks of its new home that at first glance seems similar to California’s Mojave Desert. The initial pictures were fuzzy and black-and-white.

Earlier this week, the rover raised its mast containing high-definition and navigation cameras that have provided better views.

“It’s beautiful just to finally see the colors in the terrain,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who is part of the mission.

Curiosity “continues to behave basically flawlessly,” said mission manager Mike Watkins of the NASA Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $2.5 billion mission.

Over the weekend, the rover will take a break so its computers can get a software upgrade in a process similar to a laptop having periodic updates to its operating systems. The upgrade will take several days. Data download will continue during that time, but the rover won’t be doing anything new.

During its two-year mission, the roaming laboratory will analyze rocks and soil in search of the chemical building blocks of life, and determine whether there were habitable conditions where microbes could thrive. As high-tech as Curiosity is, it can’t directly look for past or present life; future missions would be needed to answer that question.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity project, formally named the Mars Science Laboratory, is NASA’s first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes of the 1970s and is touted as the first fully equipped mobile geochemistry lab ever sent to a distant world.

News Gathered by India News

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