First HD pictures from Mars

Nasa has released the first high-definition colour pictures of Mars sent back to Earth by the Curiosity rover. Curiosity beamed back a recorded voice message from the red planet.

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NASA releases first 'laser spectrum'

NASA's first laser spectrum generated after zapping Coronation Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP

This is the first laser spectrum from the 'Chemistry and Camera' (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover.

Graphs like this are created when the rover zaps a rocks with its laser and uses spectrometers to analyse the gases that are emitted and detect different elements present in the rock.

NASA: Curiosity rover laser working well

The Mars rover has zapped several rocks in order to test its laser systems are working.

The Coronation rock that was first to be zapped Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/LANL

The first rock, dubbed 'Coronation', was chosen because of its proximity. Other choices include an outcrop of rocks that were uncovered by the Sky Crane thrusters during the landing.

NASA scientists are looking forward to doing "lots more science with the ChemCam instrument".

Rocks uncovered by the Sky Crane's thrusters Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/MSSS

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NASA: Curiosity rover's drive system working well

The Curiosity rover's drive system is working well, NASA has announced after several tests.

These included going forward about 4.5 metres (15 feet), rotating 120 degrees and then reversing about 2.5 metres (8 feet).

The mission's lead rover driver, Matt Heverly, said: "We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead."

Its first drive is scheduled for early September.

Curiosity landing spot to be named after author Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury Credit: REUTERS/Fred Prouser

NASA has announced that the spot where the Curiosity rover touched down will be named 'Bradbury Landing' after the author Ray Bradbury whose 1950 short story 'The Martian Chronicles' imagined humans colonising Mars.

Mr Bradbury was born 92 years ago today and died earlier this year.

Michael Meyer, NASA program scientist for Curiosity, said: "Many of us and millions of other readers were inspired in our lives by stories Ray Bradbury wrote to dream of the possibility of life on Mars."

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Mars rover zaps rock with laser

NASA rover has shot a rock on Mars with its laser. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Image taken before the test shows the rock chosen as the first target by NASA Credit: NASA/Reuters

During its two year mission NASA will target various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile high mountain rising from the crater floor. Its goal is to determine whether the planet was ever habitable.

First laser test by the so-called 'ChemCam' instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover Credit: NASA/Reuters

NASA's Curiosity rover prepares to 'zap' its first Mars rock

Self-portrait of the Curiosity rover's deck taken from its navigation camera Credit: Reuters/NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Curiosity rover is preparing to take part in its first laser target practice on Mars.

The rover's Chemistry and Camera instrument, known as ChemCam for short, is set to "zap" its first rock today - the first time such a powerful laser will have been used on the surface of a planet other than Earth.

After the ChemCam is tested, the Curiosity's next task will be to head east 1,300ft to a spot known as Glenelg - an area where three different types of terrain converge.

The drive, which begins next week, is expected to take around a month to complete.

NASA releases more images from Mars

NASA has released more images taken by its Curiosity rover on Mars as it prepares to initiate its first laser target practice.

An image of the Curiosity rover's deck taken from the rover's Navigation camera. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The rover aims to zap this rock with its Chemistry and Camera intrument Credit: REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
View from the rover's landing site towards the lower reaches of Mount Sharp Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Marks on Mars' surface made by blasts from the descent-stage rocket engines Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

India to launch Mars mission in 2013

The unmanned spacecraft will enter Mars' orbit and collect information Credit: Reuters/Handout

India plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in 2013 as part of a "huge step forward" in science and technology for the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced today.

Mr Singh said the 4.5 billion rupee (£51.7 million) mission was likely to be launched in November next year with a rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The spacecraft's aim will be to enter Mars' orbit and collect scientific information.

Last week, NASA successfully landed its Curiosity rover on the Red Planet, beaming back its first images.

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