For the first time, Mars rover Curiosity has sent back detailed, high-resolution pictures as well as the first human voice ever broadcast from the Red Planet.
The photos were of a location of interest for NASA scientists called Mount Sharp- a formation that rises three miles from the floor of the Gale Crater, which is about six miles from where Curiosity landed on Aug. 6.
"This is a spectacular feature that we're seeing very early," John Grotzinger, a project scientist with the California Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "We can sense that there is a big change on Mount Sharp."
Mount Sharp is the focus of NASA scientists because it could have occupied the bottom a large 96-mile-wide basin that is thought to have once been filled with liquid water.
"The layers are tilted in the Grand Canyon due to plate tectonics, so it's typical to see older layers be more deformed and more rotated than the ones above them," Grotzinger said. "This thing just kind of jumped out at us as being something very different from what we ever expected."
What has scientists interested in this formation is how it came to be in its present state, but until the rover has a chance to analyze the composition of the formation, researchers will continue to speculate. It is believed that it will take the better part of a year for the rover to travel the six miles to Mount Sharp.
"On Earth there's a whole host of mechanisms that can generate inclined strata," Grotzinger said. "Probably we're going to have to drive up there to see what those strata are made of."
NASA scientists also were able hear a message from Curiosity sent by NASA chief Charles Bolden, who recorded the message before the rover left for Mars.
"This is the first time that we've had a human voice transmitted back from another planet" Chad Edwards, chief telecommunications engineer the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, told reporters at a briefing.