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Say cheese! Rover sends first color pics from Mars


Mars rover Curiosity sent the first color photos back to Earth today. The images were criticized for being grainy but NASA said the camera has not been used to its full capability yet.



The Curiosity rover sent the first color Martian photographs home to Earth today on its first full day exploring the surface of Mars, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The photos were taken by the rover's special camera called the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and show the north wall and rim of Gale Crater.

The camera is attached to the end of the rover's arm and can photograph magnified images of rocks or other objects and also take wide shots of landscapes while it is stowed on the rover's deck.

NASA scientists Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California plan to put the rover and its instruments through several weeks of rigorous tests before revving Curiosity up to its full potential for exploration, according to Reuters.

The early photos were criticized for being poor quality, with Gawker calling it an "Instagram of a mountain" and suggesting Curiosity was taking snaps with an old RAZR cell phone.

Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, was a key scientist behind MAHLI. He spoke at a NASA news briefing Tuesday morning. He said dust and a the position of the sun made the image appear more grainy and cloudy than the camera is capable of.

The MAHLI is fitted with a dust cover that was covered in a film of dirt on when it landed on Mars. NASA said the dust cover will not be removed for at least a week. When it is fully operational, the high resolution camera will be able to capture minute details with 13.9 microns per pixel. That's several times finer than a human hair, reports Reuters.

"It works, it's awesome. We can't wait to pull [the dust cover] back and see what we can see," Edgett told reporters.