(Sen) - NASA's Curiosity rover is becoming something of a multimedia centre by beaming the first broadcasts from Mars along with intriguing new images.
Last night Will.i.am became the first musician ever to perform from the surface of the Red Planet when the robotic runabout, also called Mars Science Laboratory, played his new song Reach for the Stars.
It came hours after a message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden broadcast a message from Mars that the space agency dubbed "interplanetary voicemail".
And a close-up of the peak at the centre of Gale Crater - Aeolis Mons, which NASA has dubbed Mount Sharp - revealed fascinating layers, or strata, of rock that the geologists will be keen to investigate.
Black Eyed Peas star Will said he was delighted to be asked by NASA to write the song to encourage students to take up careers in science, mathematics and engineering.
The premiere of the song from Mars was played at 8pm Universal Time as part of an educational event that NASA set up at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena, California.
After the broadcast, Will said he had wanted to inspire the sort of kids who came back from his own kind of background.
Will's i.am.angel Foundation, in partnership with Discovery Education of Silver Spring, Maryland, which provides digital resources to schools, announced a new science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics initiative featuring NASA assets such as the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Will is an enthusiastic supporter of NASA's planetary exploration. He recently told UK TV host Graham Norton on BBC1: "My mission is to inspire the youth to care about education."
Will.i.am with former astronaut Leland Melvin holding a mdoel of Curiosity. Credit NASA
NASA Associate Administrator for Education and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said at the event, "I can think of no greater way to honour NASA pioneer Neil Armstrong's life and legacy than to inspire today's students to follow his path. That first footprint that Neil placed on the lunar surface left an indelible mark in history. Perhaps one of our students here today or watching on NASA Television will be the first to set foot on the surface of Mars and continue humanity's quest to explore."
Planetary scientists were excitedly studying telephoto images from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) showing a vista of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside, with geological layering clearly exposed.
Taken with the 100-millimeter telephoto lens and the 34-milllimeter wide angle lens of the instrument, they revealed the lower slope of the nearby peak which Curiosity will eventually visit on its mission, which is due to last at least two years.
Mastcam principal investigator Michael Malin said: "This is an area on Mount Sharp where Curiosity will go. Those layers are our ultimate objective.
"The dark dune field is between us and those layers. In front of the dark sand you see redder sand, with a different composition suggested by its different colour.
"The rocks in the foreground show diversity - some rounded, some angular, with different histories. This is a very rich geological site to look at and eventually to drive through."
Bolden's message, sent back from Curiosity on Monday, was played to the team controlling the rover back at mission control.
Will.i.am's appearance at the JPL event. Credit: NASA
They heard him say: "Hello. This is Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, speaking to you via the broadcast capabilities of the Curiosity Rover, which is now on the surface of Mars.
"Since the beginning of time, humankind’s curiosity has led us to constantly seek new life, new possibilities just beyond the horizon. I want to congratulate the men and women of our NASA family as well as our commercial and government partners around the world, for taking us a step beyond to Mars.
"This is an extraordinary achievement. Landing a rover on Mars is not easy – others have tried – only America has fully succeeded. The investment we are making, 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.
"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. Thank you."
The message played back of Administrator Charles Bolden. Credit: NASA