Today, IN SPACE…

Curiosity snapped and sent its first color photo from the surface of Mars today (above), while the video is Curiosity’s descent from the ‘bot’s POV.

I’d like to stress that this came from a planet that was, as of press time, was 155,099,687 miles away–about 50,000 length-wise USA’s. The one-ton rover beamed up info to NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which relayed 5 megabytes of data (including the above photo) back to Earth. That signal is received by a 200-foot diameter dish in one of three NASA Deep Space Network stations equidistant around the Earth: in California’s Mojave Desert, in Madrid, Spain, and in Canberra, Australia (one is always facing Mars). That photo’s a little dusty because, well, the dust cover’s still on–it’ll come off in “coming weeks” during checkout of the robotic arm (the Mars Hand Lens Imager/MAHLI is on the end of the arm). The black and white photos (including the first image beamed back after Curiosity landed) are from the front and back Hazcams; their covers were removed during systems testing today, so spiffy photos of ANOTHER PLANET will be sharp for your pleasure. Check out the difference and hotly anticipate the MAHLI’s de-covering.

Of course, if that’s too much Serious Science for you…

(Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems, NASA/JPL-Caltech)