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News

First Color Picture Of Mars, Plus Video Of Mars Curiosity's Descent

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As everyone continues to cheer the marvel of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover landing on the red planet, now it's time for a new thrill: The very first color picture of Mars. NASA Tweeted, "Here is @MarsCuriosity's First Color Image of the Martian Landscape looking north." NASA explains further, "In the distance, the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The image is murky because the MAHLI's removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover's terminal descent. Images taken without the dust cover in place are expected during checkout of the robotic arm in coming weeks."

For those of you wondering why, given the $2.5 billion NASA spent on this, the photograph is tilted, NASA says:

The MAHLI [Mars Hand Lens Imager] is located on the turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. At the time the MAHLI Sol 1 image was acquired, the robotic arm was in its stowed position. It has been stowed since the rover was packaged for its Nov. 26, 2011, launch. The MAHLI has a transparent dust cover. This image was acquired with the dust cover closed. The cover will not be opened until more than a week after the landing.

When the robotic arm, turret, and MAHLI are stowed, the MAHLI is in a position that is rotated 30 degrees relative to the rover deck. The MAHLI image shown here has been rotated to correct for that tilt, so that the sky is "up" and the ground is "down".

When the robotic arm, turret, and MAHLI are stowed, the MAHLI is looking out from the front left side of the rover. This is much like the view from the driver's side of cars sold in the USA.

The main purpose of Curiosity's MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity. This means it can, as shown here, also obtain pictures of the Martian landscape.

Whatever—we're sure Mohawk Guy will Instagram it up. Also, here's a stop-motion video made from 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager—it covers the last two-and-a-half minutes of the descent.
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