NASAs Curiosity rover has transmitted its first colour photo and a low-resolution video showing the last two-and-a-half minutes of its dramatic dive through Martian atmosphere,giving a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world.
As thumbnails of the video flashed on a big screen late Monday,scientists and engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory let out oohs and aahs. The recording began with the protective heat shield falling away and ended with dust being kicked up as the rover was lowered by cables inside an ancient crater.
It was a sneak preview and it will take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back. The full video will just be exquisite,said Michael Malin,the chief scientist of the instrument.
The first colour photo from the crater where Curiosity landed showed a pebbly landscape and the rim of Gale Crater off in the distance. Curiosity snapped the photo on its first day on the surface after touching down Sunday night.
The rover took the shot with a camera at the end of its robotic arm. The landscape looked fuzzy because the cameras removable cover was coated with dust that kicked up during the descent.
NASA celebrated the precision landing of a rover on Mars and marveled over the missions flurry of photographs grainy,black-and-white images of Martian gravel,a mountain at sunset and,most exciting of all,the spacecrafts plunge through the Red Planets atmosphere.
Curiosity is the heaviest piece of machinery NASA has landed on Mars,and the success gave the space agency confidence that it can unload equipment that astronauts may need in a future manned trip to the red planet.
The roving laboratory,the size of a compact car,landed right on target after an eight-month,566-million-kilometre journey. It parked its six wheels about 6 kilometres from its ultimate science destination Mount Sharp,rising from the floor of Gale Crater near the equator.
We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment, mission manager Mike Watkins said. But another part has just begun.
The nuclear-powered Curiosity will dig into the Martian surface to analyse whats there and hunt for some of the molecular building blocks of life,including carbon. More colour photos and panoramas will start coming in the next few days.