NASA rover's 'rare postcard' shows sweeping beauty of Mars landscape

NASA says "the scene was just too pretty not to capture it."

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This colors in this "postcard" from the Mars Curiosity rover are an artistic interpretation of the landscape.


Dear Earth. It's been over nine years since I landed on Mars. Gale Crater is gorgeous. Wish you were here. Love, Curiosity.

NASA's Curiosity rover is climbing up a peak called Mount Sharp. The rover takes pictures of its scenic surroundings as it goes, and one particular view captured the imaginations of its handlers back on Earth. "The mission team was so inspired by the beauty of the landscape, they combined two versions of the black-and-white images from different times of the day and added colors to create a rare postcard from the red planet," NASA JPL said in a statement on Tuesday.  

The image is made from two sets of mosaics Curiosity captured on Nov. 16 in the morning and early evening, Mars time. As NASA noted, "the scene was just too pretty not to capture it in the highest quality that the navigation cameras are capable of."

The picture is not quite an exact representation of what humans would see if they happened to be standing next to Curiosity. NASA said the blue, orange and green tints represent the scene as viewed at different times of day, making it an "artistic re-creation."

The line of sight is a look down the slope of Mount Sharp. The rover has been winding its way up the mountain since 2014, investigating the planet's geology, atmosphere and history as it goes. Curiosity is trying to answer the question of whether Mars might have been able to support microbial life. 

You don't have to be a planetary geologist to appreciate the rover's visual poem, an ode to another world that's both familiar and alien. As the Curiosity team tweeted, "There's beauty all around us if we let ourselves be inspired."