The U.S. space rover Curiosity has beamed to Earth its first color photo of the Martian landscape, a reddish-brown scene from the floor of a crater.
The U.S. space agency NASA said Tuesday the photo shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater in the distance. The photo was shot using a camera packed away in the long robotic arm of the rover.
NASA successfully landed Curiosity in the crater on Mars late Sunday after an eight-month journey through space. The rover's underbelly snapped hundreds of photos during its descent, but the new photo was the first from ground level after its landing.
The first photo is somewhat hazy, but NASA said it expects that as Curiosity's two-year mission unfolds, the rover's cameras will capture high-resolution pictures.
An official overseeing the camera that took the color picture, Ken Edgett, explained that the camera's transparent dust cover was still in place when the photo was taken, blurring it a bit. Nonetheless, he said rocks can be seen in the photo's foreground.
“The camera did what it is supposed to do," he said. "It found focus. When you look at the image online, you will see that you can see rocks in the foreground."
Over time, the $2.5 billion, car-sized rover will be used to investigate Martian geology, weather and radiation levels. Scientists hope the information will help them settle an age-old question - whether life ever existed on Mars or whether the red planet can sustain life in the future.