6 Wheels on Mars: Curiosity Rover's Ground-Level View

Panorama of Curiosity's Belly Check
This view of the lower front and underbelly areas of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines nine images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 34th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 9, 2012). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity snapped a panoramic shot of its own wheels and underbelly on Sept. 9, 2012, about five weeks after landing on the Red Planet.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover took the photos with its Mars Hand Lens Imager camera, or MAHLI, which sits at the end of the robot's 7-foot (2.1 meters) robotic arm. Mission scientists stitched nine images together to make the panorama.

The four circles toward the top of the image are Curiosity's front Hazard-Avoidance cameras, or Hazcams, which help the rover avoid obstacles while driving. Curiosity's belly is about 26 inches (66 centimeters) off the Martian ground.

MAHLI can focus on any target at distances down to about 0.8 inches (2.1 cm), potentially providing views of the rover from many different angles. The camera can image objects smaller than the width of a human hair, and it will mainly be used to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's Gale Crater field site.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover touched down inside Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5. Its prime mission is slated to last one Martian year, or roughly two Earth years. The six-wheeled robot is the size of a small car and carries 10 instruments to determine if Mars has ever been capable of supporting microbial life.

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