Aug 6, 2012 -- Curiosity found its new home on Mars early Monday, settling down beside a giant mound of layered rock inside an ancient crater at 1:32 a.m. EDT. The rover opened its eyes and took these photos of its surroundings, the first-ever images of this part of the planet.
Curiosity will prowl the crater for two years, as well as an unusual, three-mile-high mound of what appears to be sediments rising from the crater’s floor. The purpose of the $2.5 billion, two-year mission is to look for habitats where life could have taken root.
Though it's a roving laboratory, Curiosity isn't directly searching for Martian life, but rather for signs of the building blocks of life: organic carbon, which provides structure for living entities. The key to finding it on Mars, if it exists, is to find places where it could have been preserved, a challenging proposition since the same processes that make rock tend to destroy carbon.
Image credits: NASA/JPL