The first images from Curiosity's color Mast Camera, or Mastcam, have been received by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Even before landing, the mission's science team began the process of creating a geological map of about 150 square miles (about 390 square kilometers) within Gale Crater that includes the landing area.
"It is important to understand the geological context around Curiosity," said Dawn Sumner of the University of California, Davis, a member of the Curiosity science team. "We want to choose a route to Mount Sharp that makes good progress toward the destination while allowing important science observations along the way."
The mapping project divided the area into 151 quadrangles of about one square mile (about 2.6 square kilometers) each. Curiosity landed in the quadrangle called Yellowknife. Yellowknife is the city in northern Canada that was the starting point for many of the great geological expeditions to map the oldest rocks in North America.
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks' elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop, which are located at the end of its robotic arm, to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover's analytical laboratory instruments.