The story

NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander began sending photos of the planet's surface on the first day of its three-month mission "to taste and sniff the northern polar site's soil and ice," the space agency said.

The first pictures, which the lander began taking shortly after touching down near Mars' north pole -- the end of a 422 million-mile trek -- showed a pattern of brown polygons as far as the camera could see.

"It's surprisingly close to what we expected and that's what surprises me most," said Peter Smith, the mission's principal investigator. "I expected a bigger surprise." Read full article »

CNN's Kate Tobin contributed to this report.

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