Curiosity’s main cameras may not be due to come online until they’ve unfurled later this week, but the Mars rover is already beaming back better shots now that it has whipped off the dust protection. The first batch of photos from the freshly-landed rover were fuzzy – thanks to a combination of dust whirls from the Skycrane lander and the protective covers on the cameras themselves – but as things settle and Curiosity whirs into life, the images are getting a lot clearer.
So far there’s only one new image from the rover, limited by the need to route any transmissions via the Odyssey satellite in orbit around the red planet. Odyssey took up position around Mars in 2001, and was expected to be the weak spot in the Curiosity landing: with systems already failing in places, it could have left the NASA groundcrew at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory temporarily blind as to whether the rover had made it to the surface.
Thankfully those pieces slotted into place, giving Curiosity time to blast one last, higher-resolution shot back home. In the picture, taken by a rear “Hazcam” – a monochrome, fish-eye camera mounted on one corner of the rover, and intended to be used for guidance – you can see the curve of the horizon and one of Curiosity’s wheels. The white, ridged object in the lower right corner is believed to be part of the assembly for the dust cover itself.
Full color images are due to be collected later in the week, when the 1600 x 1200 primary cameras come online. They’re mounted on the head of the rover, which is currently tucked away as part of the landing procedure, and can shoot both stills and 10fps 720p HD video footage.