10/08/2012 09:38 BST | Updated 09/10/2012 10:12 BST

Nasa Mars Landing: Curiosity Rover Sends Back First Colour Panorama (PICTURES)


Nasa has released the first full-colour panorama photograph taken by the Mars rover Curiosity.

The shot reveals a 360-degree view of the Gale Crater landing site, including details of nearby dunes, far-off mountains and the blast crater caused by its landing rockets.

The late-afternoon panorama was made from thumbnail images taken by the rover's 34mm Mast Camera.

Grey "splotches" in the foreground of the shot were of particular interest, Nasa said, as they show the effects of the descent stage's rocket engines blasting the ground.

The £1.6bn, one-tonne vehicle, which landed on Mars early Monday in what Nasa called its 'hardest ever' mission, sent the photos back via a satellite above the planet.

The six-wheeled rover Curiosity was lowered to the Martian surface on three nylon tethers suspended from a hovering "sky crane" firing retro rockets.

Mars Curiosity Pictures

For the next 98 weeks - the length of one Martian year - Curiosity will explore a large Martian crater that billions of years ago may have been filled with water.

Nasa said the rover was continuing to perform "very well" and had awoken from its "beauty sleep... feeling healthy and refreshed":

"Curiosity's day began with a "beep" from its low-gain antenna, telling the flight team that their master sequence of activities for that sol was successfully activated from the ground.

The flight team then uploaded files to the rover's remote electronics unit memory in preparation for the upcoming Sol 5 upgrade of Curiosity's software to optimize Curiosity for surface operations.

Curiosity's backup computer was then powered on and successfully checked out. The Radiation Assessment Detector instrument is operating as planned and collected additional data on surface radiation."