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Mars rover Curiosity's high-resolution pictures received

August 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A flood of new photos pour in from the NASA Mars rover "Curiosity." The pictures have more clarity than the first ones received after Sunday's landing. Scientists will stitch the photos together to form a panorama of the red planet and reveal its similarities to planet Earth.

The latest photo from Mars has the trappings of a nearby desert: parched soil, jagged mountains.

"The first impression that you get is how Earth-like this seems," said John Grotzinger, project manager of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Another day at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and another set of new images from the Mars rover Curiosity. Scientists at JPL are marveling at the familiarity of the Martian landscape.

"You would really be forgiven for thinking that NASA was trying to pull a fast one on you and we actually put a rover out in the Mojave Desert and took a picture," said Grotzinger.

The image was taken from one of Curiosity's nav cams, which sit atop a large robotic arm.

When scientists zoomed into the photo, they saw a divot left behind by Curiosity's thrusters.

"What you see beneath the soil is bedrock, and so apparently there is a harder, rockier material beneath this veneer," said imaging scientist Mike Malin.

The mission is only a few days old, but already researchers say they have a better idea of the planet's climate and geology.

In one satellite photo you can see six of the probe's stabilizers scattered over the northern lowlands of Mars.

NASA also released an image of Curiosity's heat shield. We've seen it before, but now the resolution is much higher. Researchers say eventually Curiosity will start producing a stream of high-resolution color photographs.

The Curiosity cost taxpayers $2.5 billion. Its mission is to investigate the possibility of life on Mars. Up next, a 360-degree view of its surroundings. Eventually the rover will start roving.