28/08/2012 08:36 BST | Updated 27/10/2012 10:12 BST

Mars Rover Curiosity: Nasa Reveals Amazing Colour Images Of Red Planet (PICTURES) (VIDEO)

Nasa has published the most amazing pictures of Mars yet captured by the $1.6bn rover Curiosity.

The full-colour photographs of the Red Planet were published three weeks after the space craft landed on the surface of Mars.

The images reveal a "chapter of the layered geological history of Mars", Nasa said.

The pictures show the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual destination, where it is hoped evidence of life having once existed on the planet could be found.

Nasa enhanced the photos to have the appearance of Earth-like lighting conditions, helping to reveal different layers of rocks and minerals on the surface of the planet which have eroded at different rates.

The rover will take about a year to travel the 6.2 miles to the base of the three-mile-high mountain.

The new photos were taken by the rover's 100mm telephoto lens, and the 34mm wide angle Mast Camera.

"This is an area on Mount Sharp where Curiosity will go," said Mastcam principal investigator Michael Malin.

"Those layers are our ultimate objective. The dark dune field is between us and those layers. In front of the dark sand you see redder sand, with a different composition suggested by its different colour. The rocks in the foreground show diversity -- some rounded, some angular, with different histories. This is a very rich geological site to look at and eventually to drive through."

On Monday the rover took a drive across the surface to a patch of land where its landing engines exposed rock under a few inches of surface dirt. The plan is now to use a neutron-shooting instrument to look for water molecules under the excavated material.

The researchers also completed a test of the rover's atmosphere-sampling instruments by analysing air from Earth, and finding that the results consistent with normal readings.

Nasa also demonstrated the high bandwith of the rover by sending a voice message to Mars and back for the first time.