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Cal Tech geologist
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They are never before seen images.
And they were captured after the rover Curiosity made a historic touchdown on the red planet earlier this week.
John Zarrella reports on the mission to Mars and what scientists are calling an amazingly accurate landing.
--REPORTER PKG-AS FOLLOWS --
SO MUCH FOR SEVEN MINUTES OF TERROR.
THE ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS HAD PULLED IT OFF.
A SERIES OF NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED MARTIAN ATMOSPHERIC ACROBATICS ENDED WITH THE ROVER CURIOSITY SAFELY AND, ALL IN ONE PIECE, ON THE SURFACE. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY THE ROVER PHONED HOME SENDING BACK IMAGES. "LOOK I'M HERE." FIRST..ONE OF ITS WHEELS.
THEN, MOUNT SHARP IN THE DISTANCE. ONE CAMERA CAPTURED INCREDIBLE PICTURES OF THE DESCENT.
AND EACH DAY NEW IMAGES BETTER THAN THE LAST.
IT WILL BE A COUPLE WEEKS BEFORE ALL THE ROVER'S SYSTEMS ARE CHECKED OUT AND ITS STARTS ROAMING THE MARTIAN COUNTRYSIDE.
ITS FIRST TARGET OF INTEREST MAY NOT BE FAR OFF...A SPOT WHERE THE TOP LAYER OF SAND WAS BLOWN OFF BY THE DESCENT ENGINES.
They sent down a jet of turbulence and because Mars has a less dense atmosphere it doesn't mix the way it would on earth. It's just a shot coming straight down and it blows all the soil away and it drilled a hole all the way down to the bedrock.
FOR THE MISSION TEAM, THIS SITE, THE GALE CRATER, IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE A MOTHERLODE OF SCIENCE.
INSIDE THE CRATER, MOUNT SHARP'S LAYERS OF ROCK DATE BACK TO WHEN THE PLANET WAS WETTER, MORE EARTHLIKE.
THERE MAY BE CLUES TO WHETHER LIFE COULD EVER HAVE EXISTED HERE.
AND IT'S BELIEVED WATER MIGHT ONCE HAVE FLOWED ON THE CRATER FLOOR.
These rocks are layered clay, carbonate and sulfate. So this is what you'd get in a quiet sort of lake environment.
BETHANY EHLMANN'S JOB IS TO HELP DECIDE WHICH ARE LET'S SAY, "ROCKS OF INTEREST."
THEN USING A LASER SHE'LL VAPORIZE A TINY, REALLY TINY SPOT ON THE ROCK.
THE PLASMA EMITTED IS THEN ANALYZED FOR MINERALS.
And this is the type of rock that would be deposited in a quiet standing body of water. So we'll be looking for clues like this.
"THE MISSION TEAM SAYS SO FAR CURIOSITY HAS PERFORMED FLAWLESSLY, WELL BEYOND EXPECTATIONS. SO, WHILE IT'S BEEN ON MARS LESS THAN A WEEK, THE BAR FOR THE REST OF THE MISSION IS NOW SET PRETTY HIGH. JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN AT THE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY IN PASADENA.
MARS ROVER CURIOSITY PLANET SPACE NASA