The rover is equipped with 17 cameras in all, according to NASA:
- one remote microimager
- four black-and-white navigation cameras
- one 34-millimeter lens camera on the mast
- one 100-millimeter lens camera on the mast
- eight black-and-white hazard avoidance cameras
- one color Mars Descent Imager
- one Mars Hand Lens Imager.
"Rover missions are highly dependent on the images," Justin Maki of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a co-investigator on the Mastcam team and lead engineer for the Hazcam and Navcam systems, told NBC News. "The entire mission is occurring within the images we receive. ... When we land, we actually start with that first panorama. We bootstrap ourselves starting with that first images, and then we drive into those images and do it again."
The first images from Curiosity were taken by the rover's hazard avoidance cameras, but the many other cameras are expected to beam back color photos of higher resolution in the next few days as its two-year search for life on Mars gets under way.
Joy Crisp, deputy project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, told National Geographic that at least 200 scientists at JPL are a part of this mission.
"We'll be working 16-hour days for those first months, and we'll be entirely on Mars time," Crisp said.