Aug. 7, 2012 — On Tuesday, NASA released the first color image of the landscape where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity settled down early Monday. The view shows the north wall of the rim of Gale Crater and the image was acquired by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).
"We waited a long time for this to come back," an emotional Ken Edgett, lead researcher for Curiosity's MAHLI camera, told reporters Tuesday.
"This was basically a focus test. The focus mechanism itself has not moved since July of last year when we were down in Florida (before Mars Science Lab's launch) and we've gone through all those environments of launch, cruise, entry, descent and landing, and temperature cycles and the focus still focuses."
The picture was taken with the camera's clear dust cover still on (the reason why the picture is hazy and lacks detail) and with the camera's mast still tucked horizontally on the rover. The dust cover, which can be opened and closed as needed, will stay over the lens until after Curiosity's instrument checkout is finished in several weeks.
"It's still winter there, so the sun is kind of high and northwest of here at this time of day, so we're getting some scattering off the front of the lens," Edgett said.
"It makes it look even more murky than it actually is. It's not a dust storm. The lens is just a little dusty," Edgett said.
Flight controllers expect to send commands for the rover, nicknamed Curiosity, to raise its mast on Wednesday.
"It works. It's awesome. Can't wait to open it and see what else we can see," Edgett said.
MAHLI is one of 17 cameras aboard the rover.
-- By Irene Klotz