NASA's Curiosity rover started off the week with two big releases. The research vessel beamed back stunning new images of the martian landscape and its first human voice.
NASA announced Monday that the words of its very own administrator, Charles Bolden, were sent to Mars and radioed back successfully.
"The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future," Bolden said in the recorded message, according to NASA.
Listen to the "interplanetary voicemail":
NASA Curiosity Program Executive Dave Lavery called this "another small step is taken in extending human presence beyond Earth."
"As Curiosity continues its mission, we hope these words will be an inspiration to someone alive today who will become the first to stand upon the surface of Mars. And like the great Neil Armstrong, they will speak aloud of that next giant leap in human exploration," Lavery continued in NASA's announcement.
The new images sent back from Curiosity were taken with its 100-millimeter telephoto lens and its 34-millimeter wide angle lens, showing the geolocial layering of the landscape.
"This is an area on Mount Sharp where Curiosity will go," Mastcam Principal Investigator Michael Malin, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, said in a statement. "Those layers are our ultimate objective. The dark dune field is between us and those layers. In front of the dark sand you see redder sand, with a different composition suggested by its different color. The rocks in the foreground show diversity -- some rounded, some angular, with different histories. This is a very rich geological site to look at and eventually to drive through."
CNET reports Project Scientist John Grotzinger saying the layers visible in the photo contain hydrated phyllosilicates and sulfates -- minerals that would have formed in the presence of water.
CNET reports Malin saying the photos give viewers a better idea of the scale of the hills and canyons Curiosity will have to tackle. Although Mount Sharp is only about 10 kilometers from Curiosity now, Malin said it would take the rover 100 days to get there as it will be stopping to conduct science along the way.