In the wee hours after midnight on Monday, the Mars Science Laboratory, known to its many admirers as “Curiosity,” touched down on Mars—and ever since, photos have been trickling in from the Red Planet.
This image isn’t just a great shot of Curiosity’s shadow; it also shows us the rover’s goal: Mount Sharp, that great big mountain in the middle of Gale Crater. Curiosity will trundle up to the mountain and probe its strata to uncover the past and present Martian environment.
Thanks to Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, we can also see Mars in full color. NASA has placed the Martian landscape image in context by inserting it into a simulated terrain obtained from cameras in orbit around the planet on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Express.
And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera also captured the rover’s descent and landing. During the rover’s crazy journey to the Martian surface, various components slowed the robot’s fall, then dropped away. This photo shows where all of those parts landed. Click to enlarge—and see where the heat shield wound up.
HiRISE also took its own look at Mount Sharp from above. You can’t see the entire mound, but what is there is spectacular. To see a larger swath of the Martian landscape up close and personal, click away.