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What's Mars rover Curiosity up to now? (+video)

Curiosity is now 'resting' while receiving software upgrades. After transitioning from landing to surface mode, the rover will resume its search for clues of microbial life on the Red Planet. 

Darren Peck breaks down some basics about NASA's newest Mars rover in this week's 'Weird Science'.
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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has beamed home high-resolution color photos of its Red Planet landing site, showing terrain strikingly similar to the deserts of the American Southwest.

Curiosity snapped the pictures with its 34-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 8 PDT (Aug. 9 EDT), just three days after its daring and dramatic touchdown inside Mars' Gale Crater. Mission scientists pieced the 79 photos into a mosaic, with black boxes indicating hi-res images not yet returned by the rover.

Curiosity had already sent lower-resolution versions of these photos to Earth earlier last week. The full-frame images, relayed while the six-wheeled robot was undergoing a software-update "brain transplant," measure 1,200 by 1,200 pixels, researchers said.

The Mastcam (short for Mast Camera) takes pictures the same way a consumer digital camera does, so the new images depict the Martian surface as it would look to a hypothetical astronaut. (Researchers also created "white-balanced" versions — which show how the scene would look illuminated by Earth-like sunlight — for analysis purposes.) [Gallery: Photos of Gale Crater]

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