The first colour image of Mars from Curiosity.

Curiosity shows colour photo of Mars

Nasa’s Curiosity rover has beamed back its first colour photo from Mars.

The image shows a pebbly landscape and the rim of Gale Crater off in the distance, which Curiosity snapped on its first day after Sunday's dramatic touchdown.

The landscape looks fuzzy because the camera's removable cover was coated with dust kicked up during its descent.

Since landing, Curiosity has sent back several greyscale images of its surroundings, including a mountain view, taken using a camera at the end of its robotic arm. It is expected to send back sharper pictures of its landing site later.

Curiosity will spend two years exploring Gale Crater and an unusual three-mile-high mountain consisting of what appears to be sediments rising from the crater's floor.

The purpose of the $2.5bn mission is to look for evidence that Mars – the planet most similar to Earth – may have once harboured the basic building blocks necessary for microbial life to evolve.

It represents Nasa's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes.

Nasa plans to put the rover and its laboratory gear through several weeks of engineering checks before starting its two-year surface mission in earnest.

The rover, which began its journey in November at Cape Canaveral, Florida, comes equipped with an array of sophisticated instruments capable of analysing samples of soil, rocks and atmosphere, and beaming results back to Earth.

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