Nasa rover sends 360-degree photos of Mars

By MSN UK News Nasa/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover is sending back more and more images from the surface of the red planet

This photo shows an area on Mars that was blasted clear by the blast of the Mars Science Laboratory's descent stage rocket engines. This is part of a larger mosaic made up from a number of images captured by Curiosity's Mast Camera.

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The wall of Gale Crater

This colour image from the Curiosity rover shows part of the wall of Gale Crater, the location on Mars where the rover landed.

Here, a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system - one relating to a river or stream - from the surface of Mars. These networks have been studied since the 1970s, beginning with Nasa's Viking missions, and are believed to have dated from a period in Martian history when water flowed freely across the surface.

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Curiosity's destination

This image shows the surface of Mars and gives an overview of the eventual geological targets Curiosity will explore over the next two years. The exploration will start with the rock-strewn, gravelly surface close by, and extending towards the dark dune field. Beyond that lie the layered buttes and mesas of the sedimentary rock of Mount Sharp.

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Curiosity and the Gale Crater

This mosaic image shows part of the left side of the Curiosity rover and two blast marks from the descent stage's rocket engines. The rim of Gale Crater is the lighter colored band across the horizon. The back of the rover is to the left. The blast marks can be seen in the middle of the image. Several small bits of rock and soil, which were made airborne by the rocket engines, are visible on the rover's top deck.

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First panoramic images received from probe's historic two-year mission

Nasa's Curiosity rover landed on Mars at 5.30am GMT on 6 August. It has already been sending back fascinating images from the surface of the red planet. This picture shows a portion of the first colour 360-degree panorama from the Curiosity rover in Mars. The mission's destination, a mountain at the centre of Gale Crater called Mount Sharp, can be seen in the distance, to the left. Blast marks from the rover's descent stage are in the foreground. Click through for more.

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360-degree panorama in full

The complete 360-degree panorama of the Gale Crater on Mars, taken by the Curiosity rover. Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear grey. These areas show the effects of the descent stage's rocket engines blasting the ground. What appears as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the colour images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.

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Self-portrait

A self-portrait of the rover, taken by its navigation cameras, located on the now-upright mast. The camera snapped pictures 360-degrees around the rover, while pointing down at the rover deck, up and straight ahead. Those images are shown here in a polar projection. Most of the tiles are thumbnails, or small copies of the full-resolution images that have not been sent back to Earth yet.

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Mount Sharp

This picture shows what Nasa hopes will be the rover's main target for exploration: Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is Mount Sharp, which rises to a height of 3.4 miles. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change.

 
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The first colour image

This picture shows the first colour image transmitted by Curiosity superimposed on a computer simulation derived from images acquired from orbiting spacecraft. The view looks north, showing a distant ridge that is the north wall and rim of the Gale Crater. The colour image was taken on 6 August. It has been rendered about 10% transparent so scientists can see how it matches the simulated terrain in the background. The image was taken while the camera's transparent dust cover was still on. Curiosity's descent coated the cover with a thin film of dust. The peak seen on the left-side of the colour image is about 15 miles distant with a height of about 1,150 metres. The box with arrows at the upper left indicates direction. The arrow pointing up is "up" with respect to the gravity of Mars. The arrow pointing to the right is east.

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On the surface

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with Nasa's Curiosity rover, as spotted by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the north-west and crashed.

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Heat shield

Curiosity's heat shield, as pictured by the Mars Descent Imager after it was jettisoned on 5 August.

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The first image

This is the first picture transmitted by Nasa's Curiosity rover after landing on the surface of Mars. It shows the planet's surface, along with the wheel of the rover. Curiosity is beginning a two-year mission to search for evidence that Mars once hosted the ingredients for life.

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Touchdown

This picture, from a second batch of images sent from the Curiosity rover, shows the vehicle's wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. Roughly the size of a Mini Cooper, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity which landed on Mars in 2004.

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How Curiosity landed on Mars

An artist's impression of how Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars. The six-wheeled rover was lowered to the Martian surface on three nylon tethers suspended from a hovering "sky crane" kept airborne with retro rockets. It was too heavy to have its landing cushioned by bouncing air bags - the method used for the previous rovers. Instead scientists came up with the dramatic but successful "sky crane" solution.

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Area for exploration

The area where Nasa's Curiosity rover has touched down, as seen in this false-colour map based on data from Nasa's Odyssey orbiter. The yellow oval shows the elliptical landing target for Curiosity's landing. A fan-shaped deposit is visible around a crater to the north-west of the landing area. A series of undulating lines travelling south-east from the crater indicates similar material moving down a slope. The material, which appears bluish-green in this image, also forms a fan shape. An area in red indicates a surface material that is more tightly cemented together than rocks around it and likely has a high concentration of minerals. One interpretation for this texture is that water could have been present there some time in the past.

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Success

Nasa's team celebrate the successful landing of the Curiosity probe. Pictured from left to right: Charles Elachi, director; Pete Theisinger, project manager; Richard Cook, deputy project manager; and Adam Steltzner, entry, descent and landing lead.

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The Curiosity rover

This picture shows an artist's impression of the Curiosity rover. The machine's arm, which extends about two metres, can study rocks up close. A drill can collect sample material from the inside of rocks and a scoop can pick up samples of soil. The arm can sieve the samples and deliver fine powder to instruments inside the rover for thorough analysis. The mast, or rover's "head," rises to about 2.1 metres above ground level, about as tall as a basketball player. This mast supports two remote-sensing science instruments: the mast camera, or "eyes," for stereo colour viewing of surrounding terrain and material collected by the arm; and the chemistry and camera instrument, which uses a laser to vaporise a speck of material on rocks up to about seven metres away and determines what elements the rocks are made of.

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Looking down

This colour thumbnail image was obtained by the Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars. It shows dark dunes, degraded impact craters and other geological features including small escarpments that range in size from a few metres to many tens of metres in height. The image was obtained one minute 16 seconds before touchdown.