Following the Curiosity rover's successful landing on Mars last week, the world held its breath for the first images the rover transmitted from the planet's surface.
One of the NASA rover's eight hazard-avoidance cameras shot this black-and-white picture of Curiosity's own shadow stretching toward Mount Sharp on August 6.
Centered in Gale Crater, the 18,000-foot (5,500-meter) peak "is taller than any mountain in the lower 48 [U.S.] states," geologist John Grotzinger, part of the Curiosity team, said at a July 16 press conference.
The goal is for the rover—also called the Mars Science Laboratory—to climb Mount Sharp and analyze layers spanning all of Mars's major geological epochs.
A heat shield is subjected to punishing testing at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee in a recently released picture.
The shield is one of several under scrutiny for NASA's Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will be the flagship of the next-generation U.S. space fleet.
Though Orion resembles its Apollo-era predecessors, the two vehicles' "technology and capability are light-years apart," according to NASA. For instance, Orion will feature a larger, more advanced crew module suitable for long-term spaceflight.