Mars looks a lot like sibling Earth - Nasa
The ancient Martian crater in which the Curiosity rover landed looks strikingly similar to the Mojave Desert in California with its looming mountains and hanging haze, according to scientists.
"The first impression that you get is how Earth-like this seems looking at that landscape," said chief scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology.
Overnight, the car-size rover poked its head out for the first time since settling in Gale Crater, peered around and returned a black-and-white self-portrait and panorama that was being processed yesterday.
It provided the best view so far of its destination since touching down on Sunday night after nailing an intricate choreography.
During the last few seconds, a rocket-powered spacecraft hovered as cables lowered Curiosity to the ground.
In the latest photos, Curiosity looked out towards the northern horizon. Nearby were scour marks in the surface blasted by thrusters, which kicked up a swirl of dust. There were concerns that Curiosity had become dusty, but scientists said that was not the case.
"We do see a thin coating of dust, but nothing too bad," said Justin Maki, imaging scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $2.5-billion mission.
Scientists were giddy about the scour marks because they exposed bedrock below - information that should help them better understand the landing site.
Since landing, Curiosity has zipped home a stream of low-resolution pictures.
The rover successfully raised its mast packed with high-resolution and navigation cameras. With the mast up, it could begin its shutterbug days in force, including taking a 360-degree colour view of its surroundings as early as yesterday.