Aug. 9, 2012 — The Mars Science Laboratory has released its first 360 degree panorama of the surrounding terrain, part of a region called Aeolis Palus inside the ancient impact crater Gale Crater. Although the first color panorama is composed of many small thumbnail images captured by Curiosity's Mastcam system, the detail is astonishing.

The mosaic is composed of 130 small 144x144 pixel thumbnails. Later today, the MSL team expect Curiosity to beam 1,200x1,200 pixel versions of these small photo previews to Earth.

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Captured in the panorama are the "footprints" of the Sky Crane's rockets that disturbed the top layers of regolith as the one-ton rover landed over the weekend. Dust and small pieces of gravel were blasted into the air and over the rover, exposing the bedrock below. The debris that ended up on the rover's deck isn't thought to pose a hazard for Curiosity's instrumentation. Interestingly, mission scientists have also noticed "grey splotches" on the ground that may warrant further investigation.

Curiosity PanoramaNASA/JPL-Caltech

In addition to the first color panorama is a grey-scale 360 degree panoramic mosaic that has been created from high-resolution images returned from Curiosity's mast-mounted Navigation Cameras (or Navcams). The Navcam panorama (above) includes some very nice detail of the deck of the rover, plus some of its instrumentation — such as the low-gain and high-gain antennae (far left), circular Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) and the shadow of Curiosity's "head" — the blocky Chemcam.