The photo-snapping rover Curiosity returned another postcard from Mars yesterday—the first 360-degree color panorama of Gale Crater. Scientists admired the sweeping vista—red dust, dark sand dunes, and tan-hued rocks. In the distance was the base of Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor, where the six-wheel rover planned to go. "It's very exciting to think about getting there, but it is quite a ways away," says a mission scientist.
Though it's the sharpest view yet of the landing site, the panorama was stitched together from thumbnails while scientists waited for better quality pictures to be downloaded. "It's beautiful just to finally see the colors in the terrain," says Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who is part of the mission. Curiosity "continues to behave basically flawlessly," adds the mission manager.