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Curiosity snaps a self-portrait from the surface of Mars

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The Curiosity rover today beamed a snapshot of its mast (or "head") back to earth, giving us the first clear look at NASA's robot on the red planet.

Curiosity self portrait
Curiosity self portrait

Ever since NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on Mars, we've been witness to a constant stream of stunning red planet imagery. Yet despite panoramas and other shots that have become instant classics, we've yet to get a great look at Curiosity itself. That all changed earlier today when the rover beamed a snapshot of its mast (or "head") back to earth. It's a powerful photo that stirs visions of robots which previously existed only in fantasy; just try looking at this and not thinking of Pixar's Wall-E.

NASA's original photo is somewhat obscured by a dust cover on the MAHLI camera used to capture the picture, but The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla made the necessary touchups to reveal the memorable portrait above. That large "eye" you're looking at is actually one of Curiosity's most vital tools: it's a powerful laser capable of vaporizing Mars rocks and instantly analyzing their chemical composition as they vanish from sight. As for the array of cameras below, they're responsible for all the timeless images being sent to NASA each day. If nothing else, Curiosity's vanity shot has provided us with a much better glimpse of the technology accomplishing that important work.