CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. -- NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has debuted the first recorded human voice that traveled from Earth to another planet and back.
In spoken words radioed to the rover on Mars, then back to NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a statement that noted the difficulty of landing a rover on Mars and congratulated NASA employees and the agency's commercial and government partners on the successful landing.
Bolden's statement also spoke with a sense of wonder about the human drive that is the name-sake of the rover -- curiosity.
"The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet," he said. "Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future."
The voice playback was released along with new telephoto camera views of the Martian landscape.
Curiosity program executives said they hoped the words would resonate with a latter-day Neil Armstrong, and help drive that person's determination and curiosity to stride across the surface of Mars.
The telephoto images beamed back to Earth provide more than a whetting of the appetite. They show a scene of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside, with geological layering clearly exposed.
The view is of an area Curiosity will explore, scientists said.
A drive early Monday placed Curiosity directly over a patch where one of the spacecraft's landing engines scoured away a few inches of gravelly soil and exposed underlying rock.
Researchers plan to use a neutron-shooting instrument on the rover to check for water molecules bound into minerals at this partially excavated target.
Curiosity already is returning more data from the Martian surface than have all of NASA's earlier rovers combined.
The rover is only three weeks into a two-year prime mission on Mars.
It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.