Photographic History: Pictures from the Curiosity Mars Rover

The “OMG Space Is Cool” club has been sending photos back and forth all week. I think every last one of them stayed up all night Sunday watching the Curiosity landing. History Geek, at the very least, looked wrecked when he staggered into the office Monday clutching a large mug of coffee like his life depending on him drinking it. At any rate, photos from another world are cool so I agreed to run a few of them today without making the Space Aces resort to threats or begging.

If you didn’t stay up to watch it Sunday night, then you apparently missed quite a show. A couple of satellites already around Mars were able to relay information back to Earth. There was only a fourteen minute delay between Curiosity sending information and Earth receiving it — much better than the time-delay in watching the Olympics in the US. So, let’s see what Curiosity has sent us so far, shall we? If you want to see more images from Curiosity in the coming days, check out our Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

This was the first image sent back to Earth. In it, you can see Curiosity’s wheel. Seeing this gave solid proof that Curiosity’s seven-minute-long descent and landing had gone off without a hitch.

This was the second image sent back to Earth that confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt (pun intended) that the rover was just fine. Both of these images were sent back to Earth within moments of receiving the signal that the rover had landed safely.

This image was Curiosity’s first color image of the landscape around it. In the distance, you can see Mt. Sharp. The picture is grainy because of the dust cover over the lens and because it was done as part of a calibration test. Future images should be sharper.

This is an image of the area opposite Mt. Sharp. It’s the lip of the Gale Crater. Curiosity was sent to the Gale Crater because that area is the best place to search for previous life on Mars.

This is a comparison of two images — the first is an image with the dust cap still over the lens. The second image is the same area but with the dust cover off the lens. See the difference?

This is Mt. Sharp. It’s taller than the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states in the US on Earth. The folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab hope to guide Curiosity into getting closer to Mt. Sharp to study the lower levels of it in part of the quest to discover if life is unique to Earth or if it ever arose on Mars.

— da Bird