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Curiosity rover takes high-resolution self-portrait on Mars

By dpreview staff on Nov 2, 2012 at 18:43 GMT

While we're stuck down here on earth, NASA's Curiosity rover is currently trundling around on the surface of Mars, mapping the terrain and analyzing rocks. This week, Curiosity took time out from its busy schedule to snap an arms-length self-portrait, showing the rover in situ, in Gale Crater - 140 million miles from home. The composite image is made up of 55 high-resolution images, taken using its MAHLI camera, which is mounted on the end of a robotic arm.

This 'self portrait' was assembled from 55 images and will be analysed by NASA to make sure that the Curiosity rover hasn't sustained any damage while traversing the surface of Mars. 

MAHLI stands for Mars Hand Lens Imager and is one of three main cameras on-board Curiosity, all of which are built around Kodak KAI-2020CM sensors - 2MP CCD chips very similar in size to the 1" type sensors used in Nikon's 1 System and Sony's DSC-RX100. These 11.8 x 8.9mm sensors are now made by Truesense Imaging - the company spun-out of Kodak in 2011. The All three are equipped with standard Bayer filters, allowing them to capture color images in a single shot. Back in August, we interviewed Mike Ravine of Malin Space Science Systems, who developed the cameras and you can read that article here.

The 34mm (115mm equiv.) Mastcam from the Curiosity rover - developed by Mike Ravine and his team at Malin Space Science Systems.

According to NASA, 'Self-portraits like this one document the state of the rover and allow mission engineers to track changes over time, such as dust accumulation and wheel wear. Due to its location on the end of the robotic arm, only MAHLI (among the rover's 17 cameras) is able to image some parts of the craft, including the port-side wheels'.

Comments

Total comments: 161
12
torcik
By torcik (Nov 2, 2012)

Capricorn One

1 upvote
Lea5
By Lea5 (Nov 2, 2012)

Ah come on. This thingy is drivin' somewhere in a desert of Nevada and the folks at NASA laughin their a**es off. It has something from the movie "Short Circuit" from 1986 :)

2 upvotes
redseer
By redseer (Nov 4, 2012)

I can assure you the Nevada Desert is more inhospitable than Mars. It's easier to film the rover on Mars than there (I know because I've camped there for a whole week at the end of August).

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Nov 4, 2012)

Have a look on Google Image, and be surprised how the Mars sand has the same texture/color than the Gobi desert one. 1,295,000 km2, it's vast enough to find a little spot to make a shot.

1 upvote
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Nov 17, 2012)

@redseer
If you think the Nevada Desert is more inhospitable than Mars then you should easily survive a week camping on Mars with the same gear then. Or did you spend your camping trip in a spacesuit?

Sorry but your assurance ain't worth much ;-)

1 upvote
King Penguin
By King Penguin (Nov 2, 2012)

Looks like the tide was out!

0 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Nov 2, 2012)

Holy Bars Matman !

2 upvotes
Jon Stern
By Jon Stern (Nov 2, 2012)

What? No duck face?

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
BobYIL
By BobYIL (Nov 2, 2012)

IMHO, one of the reasons to employ rather low MP sensors could be the limitation of the transmission speed assigned for image transfer, taking into account that there are 17 (!) cameras functioning. Also, probably the greatest portion of the transmision capacity is to be used by the other scientific sensors and probes collecting data. (BTW I have checked the panorama posted by the preceding poster, the resolution leaves nothing to desire. http://www.panoramas.dk/mars/curiosity-first-color-360.html)

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Erick L
By Erick L (Nov 2, 2012)

Next thing you know, all the Mars Rovers will have a party and post pictures on facebook.

0 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

your thought you were joking, right?

http://www.facebook.com/MarsCuriosity

4 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

"The composite image is made up of 55 high-resolution images, taken using its MAHLI [2MP CCD] camera"

So how does a 2MP camera take a high resolution image?

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 2, 2012)

2MP is high-res by the standards of automated extra-terrestrial vehicles.

9 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Nov 2, 2012)

One little section at a time. Just like stitching a panorama.

3 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

Yes, I understand the stitching thing, but the claim was that it was stitched together from 55 individual Hi-Res images.

But as Barney points out, when you are the only show in town then I guess whatever you got counts as hi-res.

0 upvotes
oss
By oss (Nov 2, 2012)

@wetsleet

55 times 2MP minus a bit for overlap is pretty high resolution don't you think?

2 MP is pretty high resolution for individual shots, WUXGA is 1920x1200 which is higher than a High Def television, WUXGA resolution is about 2.3 MP standard HDTV is barely over 2MP

Have you actually looked at the fully composed image?

2 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Nov 2, 2012)

2 MP is a lot, if you consider the circumstances. Its a Mars rover!

And it has nothing to do with being the only show in town. It is just that for a small vehicle on a mission on another planet, you usually have less pixels.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

@oss yes, and for the nth time, I get that the whole finished picture is hi-res. I was simply questioning the application of the term hi-res to the individual 2MP component pictures. And I can accept that, on Mars, whatever camera you happen to have in your pocket is going to count as hi-res, if you so wish, since whatever it is it's likely to be the highest resolution camera on the planet...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
kkoba
By kkoba (Nov 2, 2012)

Read Mark Ravine's interview linked in this article. The camera sensor choice was a compromise for using the same sensor on all cameras. And the performance requirements were pretty much frozen in their original 2004 proposal.

0 upvotes
Elaka Farmor
By Elaka Farmor (Nov 2, 2012)

The finished pic is about 41.5mp (5463x7595). Not bad.

0 upvotes
Wintergreen
By Wintergreen (Nov 2, 2012)

I love the "usually" !
Like this is a some kind of regular thing to send out a "malp" on another planet :)

I'm teasing Roland but I totally agree with you.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Nov 2, 2012)

wetsleet, if it made a high-resolution picture it is a high-resolution camera. You're just being pedantic about the exact wording that DPreview used, because if they had moved the words around slightly then you wouldn't have had a complaint at all...at least not a complaint based on the facts. Seems kind of petty.

0 upvotes
Eleson
By Eleson (Nov 3, 2012)

The camera isn't hooked up to a wireless-n network with fibre connection to Houston. Even if the could have, I'm not sure they would have opted for more MP to send.
Bitrates aren't that impressive, or comes with heavy output power which is not a problem as long as you have your mains supply nearby. :)

0 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 3, 2012)

They have a bandwidth of up to 2Mb/s from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to Earth, which isn't too shabby, and does not compare so badly with a wireless-n network. But the orbiter can only upload 100-250Mb from the rover at each overhead pass, and I guess it is not always in view of earth either.

As to the notion that every camera is a hi-res camera, you just feed its output through some stitching software, um, OK...?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
attomole
By attomole (Nov 3, 2012)

Your HD TV is around 2MP, so this image is equivalent to 55 HD TV cameras, Its about building an image. As an engineering solution it is entirely appropriate in the circumstance.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Nov 3, 2012)

"As to the notion that every camera is a hi-res camera, you just feed its output through some stitching software, um, OK...?"

There is some justification for it here. Because it is custom-built for a mission-critical function, the 2MP that you get out of that camera is very likely much better data than you would get out of most 2MP consumer cameras ever made, in terms of optical quality, noise level, dynamic range, etc. And that's before you compare the camera on the basis of radiation hardening, ability to withstand temperature extremes...

0 upvotes
Eleson
By Eleson (Nov 2, 2012)

Who's footprints is it on the left? :)

1 upvote
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

Dude, that was the guy holding the lighting rig. Looks like he stepped out of shot just in time.

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
oss
By oss (Nov 2, 2012)

I take the smiley as your true understanding of this shot ;)

Full size they look like the sample scrape pits.

1 upvote
Wintergreen
By Wintergreen (Nov 2, 2012)

Haven't you seen the movie ?

It's about to get thrashed by a transformer, this is it's footprint.

1 upvote
JOrtiz
By JOrtiz (Nov 2, 2012)

Unbealibable - meaning: I do not believe it. There is nothing (and I hope, nobody) holding the camera.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

I know, they faked the lunar landing photos also, and that was even before photoshop.
:)

1 upvote
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Nov 2, 2012)

Yeah, I was wondering about that. I don't see any arm between camera location and the lander. All I can figure out is that since this is a composite of many smaller photos, they edited out the arm.

1 upvote
oss
By oss (Nov 2, 2012)

Why the 'hope' ?

55 pictures taken from different angles and stitched together by an agency that has more computing power than any of us are likely to ever see and you are surprised that they can compose a wonderful image like this?

If you look about 25% from the left from the top left and about 53% down you will see where the composite fails and metal dissolves into sand, taking the arm with it, it's not really possible to do perfect stitching except in extremely controlled conditions.

This is real, anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get a proper education.

1 upvote
mosc
By mosc (Nov 2, 2012)

wetsleet, I guess you missed those wonderful shots a couple years back of the lunar surface we took? They were detailed enough to show footprints.

Of if you're a conspiracy guy, an entire new generation of nasa was brought in to fake pictures of fake landing sites.

2 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

relax, I'm no conspiracy guy...

but when the drugs they made me take wear off...

2 upvotes
leekil
By leekil (Nov 2, 2012)

I think that the "dissolve into sand" part you are talking about is not a stitching error, but there is actually sand covering part of the vehicle.

I don't doubt there is an arm, but I am curious where it is attached.

0 upvotes
leekil
By leekil (Nov 2, 2012)

I was looking in the wrong place, I guess. But the actual traces of the arm are well hidden.

0 upvotes
Solar Eagle
By Solar Eagle (Nov 2, 2012)

What I can't believe is that there's actually people on a digital photography site who can't figure out how it's possible that the arm is not visible.

3 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

That is cool - makes you wonder, who was holding the camera?

(Yeah, I know, it was a Japanese tourist, of course)

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Nov 2, 2012)

No, it was this guy:

http://wdtprs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/12_08_06_mars_rover_01.jpg

2 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

here is the real shot, just before that guy stepped out of frame on the left (leaving his footprints, of course):
http://www.concordy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Mars-picture-2.png

0 upvotes
Joel Benford
By Joel Benford (Nov 2, 2012)

Coolest self-portrait in ages.

1 upvote
cosmo13
By cosmo13 (Nov 2, 2012)

So where is the mast with the camera? I see nothing attached to the Rover extending out of the frame to the camera position. In other words there is nothing going from where the camera must be to the Rover.

0 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

it is a mosaic composite picture, if that helps

2 upvotes
Lajos Hajdu
By Lajos Hajdu (Nov 2, 2012)

Exactly. What connected the camera with the rover? How was this taken?

1 upvote
random78
By random78 (Nov 2, 2012)

I was wondering the same thing. But I think what has happened is that the image has been stitched in a way that the arm has been removed from the picture.

0 upvotes
dad_of_four
By dad_of_four (Nov 2, 2012)

It was probably photoshopped out. This photo is made up of 55 individual photos, so you could easily remove the robotic arm in PP

I think they should have left it in, because it looks odd without it.

1 upvote
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

So the arm moves and takes a succession of photos, overlapping to some extent. In stitching together the final picture, the arm itself can be left out - that is just a portion of each individual picture, and if there is enough overlap between adjacent pictures you can always leave out the arm.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
Bigger Tom
By Bigger Tom (Nov 2, 2012)

Yep - looks like they've stitched several of the mosaic shots so they overlap and therefore get rid of the camera arm - if you look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover you can see what should be sticking out the "front" of the rover (top picture)

0 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (Nov 2, 2012)

See tracks on right ... where it went to set up it's Point & Shoot camera ... retreated and got it's Self Timer shot. Rumor has it that it uses a Canon S90 with a Eye-Fi card

2 upvotes
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

my son just had a look at the picture - first question "who took the picture dad, I mean, well...".

So I left him to puzzle it out. His answer was as yours (makofoto) - the rover set its camera down on a rock, backed up a little, smile and click. Or maybe it was one of those other rovers they sent up before - I thought that was a good answer.

2 upvotes
dom33
By dom33 (Nov 2, 2012)

Ok it's stiched and arm is pp out. But isn't that the camera and arm shown in the picture? how was the photo of the camera taken? did they include previously taken pictures from earth in the stitching? If yes, then makes you wonder how much more "filler" photos were used.

1 upvote
wetsleet
By wetsleet (Nov 2, 2012)

No, the camera is on an articulated arm. You can see the whole arm here:
http://www.concordy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Mars-picture-2.png

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
dom33
By dom33 (Nov 2, 2012)

ah yes thanks, they cut the arm after the first joint.

2 upvotes
cjep1
By cjep1 (Nov 2, 2012)

Of course the stiched not only the arm out - but 55 arms out. What arm should be left? and would it contribute to the scientific reasons for making the photo?

2 upvotes
star shooter
By star shooter (Nov 2, 2012)

Ah, come on, this shot was taken by the film crew shooting a new Mars Bar commercial finishing up with the signature jingle... "....a Mars a day, helps your to work, rest and play..."

1 upvote
CeleryBeats
By CeleryBeats (Nov 2, 2012)

Guys For real!!! It's a HIGH RES PICTURE FROM ANOTHER PLANET!!! Who cares about the arm that is edited out of the picture.... ITS AWESOME!!!

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Nov 3, 2012)

"Of course the stitched not only the arm out - but 55 arms out."

Rover has 55 arms??

I'm only asking this because I'm a moron.

Also, I'm looking to get some laughs.

0 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Nov 5, 2012)

Are we talking about arms or tentacles? Educate me.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 161
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