Today on Mars: Nice Undercarriage

Curiosity's hand-cam snaps some new photos that put Instagram filters to shame

Ready to Roll

This is Curiosity's wheel, photographed by the Mars Hand Lend Imager (MAHLI) instrument. And there you can see the rim of Gale Crater in the distance. And th- wait, what is THAT BLACK DOT? of the speck. (It's just a dust grain.)NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

The Mars rover Curiosity is still busy checking itself out, photographing its wheels and undercarriage after taking a lovely self-portrait the other day sol. No, this was not edited with the Instagram Earlybird filter.

The ground at Gale Crater is made of pretty compact, fine-grained stuff, as you can see from the rusty-colored dust on the wheels. That's good because the rover won't sink into the sand, but it might make it hard for her to scoop up the dirt when the time comes.

Those holes in the wheels, on the far side of the wheel in this image, form the rover's visual odometry, spelling JPL in Morse code.

Curiosity is downloading thousands of pictures of itself and its surroundings, completing a few new checkouts before she rolls toward a rock outcropping called Glenelg, probably sometime in the next couple Mars-weeks.