NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, a.k.a. Curiosity, has sent back its first color image from the Red Planet.
The photograph, the first of the Martian surface to be taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater in the distance.
It's a murky shot, captured through the camera's transparent dust cover. The cover remains closed as the rover team continues testing Curiosity's instruments to see how they're working after the craft's harrowing descent.
MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, spoke about the photo at a NASA news briefing Tuesday morning. In addition to the dust cover obscuring the image, he said, the sun's position high in the sky at the time the shot was taken created scattering off of the lens.
"It looks more murky than it really is," he said.
MAHLI is positioned on the turret on Curiosity's robotic arm. The camera, which will primarily be used to take close-up pictures of rocks and soil, can focus at distances from 0.8 inches to infinity, and can be positioned to point in many directions.
For this photo -- which Edgett said was "basically a focus test" -- Curiosity's arm and turret were stowed and MAHLI was pointed at the "left front shoulder of the rover," directly north of the landing site.
Choking up a bit as he began speaking, Edgett said that the test had been a success.
"It works, it's awesome. We can't wait to pull [the dust cover] back and see what we can see."
-- Eryn Brown, Los Angeles TimesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun