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NASA's Curiosity rover sends back first color images from Mars

By dpreview staff on Aug 7, 2012 at 23:33 GMT

NASA's Curiosity rover vehicle, that landed on Mars on August 6th, has sent back its first color images of the planet's dusty yellow/orange landscape. The image was taken with the camera on the rover's still retracted robotic arm, from behind the dust shield designed to protect the camera. The dust shield will be removed, promising better images, once the dust kicked-up by its landing has settled. This camera, known as MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager), is primarily intended for examining close-up items. Still better images should come once the two Mastcams start sending back images.

The first color image from the Curiosity rover on Mars. The image was shot from using the camera on the rover's robotic arm and is angled because that arm is still retracted. The image has been overlayed onto a computer rendering of the landscape, based on data from orbiting craft.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

All three cameras 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.

The KAI-2020 sensors used by the rover's main cameras, now made by Truesense Imaging

The MAHLI camera has a 21.3mm (60mm equiv.) lens, though its effective field-of-view narrows to nearer 70mm equiv, F9.8 when working at its closest focus distance of 25mm. To allow working at such close range, the unit is equipped with two white LEDs and two ultraviolet LEDs, to allow it to test for fluorescence. The filters on MAHLI mean that, much like a conventional camera, it is only sensitive to visible light (in this instance, a 380–680nm range). MAHLI is designed to focus-stack images shot at different focus points, to maximise depth-of-field.

An artist's impression of the Curiosity rover, showing the rough positions of the three primary imaging cameras.

The two Mastcams, built onto the rover's main mast, are much more sophisticated units. Although based around the same sensors, these have no IR filter, so are sensitive across the visible and near-infrared region of the spectrum. The cameras each include 9 filters that can be swapped in and out, to allow them to assess very specific colors and include 'clear' IR filters, to allow them to take full-color images.

The Mastcams feature the same underlying design, including a Filter Wheel containing nine filters that can be slotted into place to measure different light frequencies in the scene.

The two cameras differ in terms of the prime lens they're fitted with. Lens distortions mean their images are likely to be 1200 x 1200 pixels taken from the middle of each frame. Mastcam 34 features a 115mm equivalent F8 lens, while the Mastcam 100 uses a 343mm equivalent F11 lens. In addition to thier specific color filters, each has a more dense color filter to allow images to be shot while pointing towards the sun.

A test image shot from Malin Space Science System's cleanroom, showing the full 1648 x 1200 pixel output of the Mastcam 34. Only the central 1200 x 1200 region of the image would be used.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Both cameras are able to capture 720p video at around 7 frames per second, and the Mastcam 34 can be used to shoot 360 degree panoramas of the rover's current position (taking 150 images over a 25 minute period as the remote mast is rotated). The operating team says it might use the rover's movement to create cinematic tracking shots of the Martian landscape.

Each camera features 8GB of storage and can broadcast thumbnail images, so that time isn't spent transmitting every image at full resolution, back from the surface of Mars. To ensure images don't all come back with a yellow/orange tinge, Curiosity features color calibration and white-balance targets that the cameras can be pointed at.

The calibration target used by MAHLI, including a 1909 Lincoln penny and color targets, including a fluorescent pigment that glows red under UV light.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

It had been hoped that zoom lenses would be used for the Mastcams, but minor precision failures meant they weren't ready in time for the mission's launch. Malin Space Science Systems, the San Diego, California company that developed all the rover's cameras, has said it will continue to work on the lenses for future projects.

Comments

Total comments: 282
12
AmaturFotografer
By AmaturFotografer (Aug 13, 2012)

Why was CCD chosen over CMOS?

0 upvotes
mosc
By mosc (Aug 14, 2012)

Because the thing was built in 2004.

0 upvotes
belka510
By belka510 (Aug 18, 2012)

The main danger for the sensor comes from the space radiation, which creates a radiation-induced defects in the semiconductor gain coefficient shifting in bipolar transistors and redistributing charges in MOS transistors. We have a strong magnetic field on Earth, which protects us from space radiation, but Mars is such a strong magnetic field there. In the outer space CMOS image sensor will quickly result in the inhomogeneity and the whole image will appeared as colored spots. CCD sensor is less sensitive to radiation defects and produces an analog signal. Pixels should be large so the image can be uniform, plus for the manufacture of semiconductors that are resistant to radiation requires more complex technology.

0 upvotes
PhotoArtKC
By PhotoArtKC (Aug 12, 2012)

What's on Mars to take high resolution pictures of anyway? After all, they have to be able to beam these back to Earth too. Imagine sending back dozens of high resolution images. That would be terribly time consuming not to mention tie up the communications system. 2MP does seem a bit "small", I could see 4 or even 6MP being used and then send 2MP files unless a higher resolution file is requested. Or even use a "digital zoom" feature since a working mechanical zoom didn't make it to the rovers cameras in time.

0 upvotes
moeburn1
By moeburn1 (Aug 10, 2012)

I'd like to see your 16-megapixel SLR camera function on Mars.

That's why they are using 2mp CCDs; because a 16mp CCD that can function on Mars after traveling through space will cost a HELL of a lot more, require lots more research, and way more durable materials, than a 16mp CCD that can function on Earth.

0 upvotes
danharperphotography.com
By danharperphotography.com (Aug 9, 2012)

Despite the fact that there are multi-megaploxel cameras out there don't forget that HD video is 2mp as well. Coincidence?
You don't need massively high resolution images for everything, only if you want to print really big.
Yes the D800/5DIII crowd are a bit jaded after having so many pixels available to us, but don't forget, these cameras/chips don't just get sent to space, they're IN it. They need to be designed and then produced in a manner that works with the surrounding systems, and sadly, some of these projects get made in the 60s and then are only put into use in the 2000s.
Anyway, none of this is a big deal unless you're going into space any time soon.

0 upvotes
gwales
By gwales (Aug 9, 2012)

Curiosity isn't on Mars to take pictures...

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 9, 2012)

Then why does it have 17 cameras?

Without pictures, Curiosity would have no way of knowing where to go and where to use its miriad of devices to test the soil. The rover cannot make those decisions on its own. They are made by scientists on the ground who examine the images to determine which sites and rocks to go to and test. One of the most intersting finds on Mars was discovered in an image and only confirmed by the test instruments.

To the scientists, the images serve a practical function, but to the rest of us,the visual images are very important. We want to see what it looks like on the surface and view these pictures with wonder.

Visual imagery has and still does represent the most important tool of discovery and exploration. The mysterious features of Jupiter, Saturn and Europa, Titan and the other moons, that have piqued our curiosity, were discovered by vusual imagery.

A visit to Mars is a photo op we could not fail to take advantage of.

0 upvotes
gwales
By gwales (Aug 9, 2012)

Taking pictures is different to getting the best images for scientific work. They will always try to use the appropriate tools for the job, rather than please pixel peepers. Of course we all want to see great pictures of Mars, but that's not the priority for NASA, of course.

0 upvotes
tenstripe
By tenstripe (Aug 11, 2012)

It may not be NASA's priority to take pictures, but if they don't they won't get money and support; not to mention the doubters and conspiricy theorists. Yea, 17 camera's is about right.

0 upvotes
MikeMiami
By MikeMiami (Aug 9, 2012)

I have my Star Map in front of me and I think Marvin The Martian lives in that house at 880 meters and Alf and ET share the condo at 17 km!

1 upvote
SDPharm
By SDPharm (Aug 9, 2012)

So I downloaded the image, rotated it and cropped out the computer rendered gray image. The resulting image is about 3700 x 2800, or about 10 MP. What's going on here? How does the 2mp camera produce a 10mp image?

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 9, 2012)

Its a composite image.

The compositing software technology that allows us to make panoramas, high rez stitches and HDR images and the hardware and software that lead to the shifting sensor backs of the early generation professional digitial cameras. (like the early 2000s Imacon) are the result of technology devloped by NASA for the Viking landers.

The signal uplink to the orbiting satillites cannot handle large image files . What I find puzzling is that they did not equip the satellites with more powerful transmitters. That was not a matter of technological capability, but simply size and weight. If NASA had bigger boosters, then they could send bigger probes, satellites and landers. The manned Appollo command and landing modules were huge in comparison to the typical plantary probe. If large boosters like the Saturn V were used for plantary probes, then NASA engineers would not be inhibited by size and weight and they could send bigger and better technology.

0 upvotes
SDPharm
By SDPharm (Aug 10, 2012)

Thanks for the explanation.

0 upvotes
CNY_AP
By CNY_AP (Aug 9, 2012)

They said it cost $2.5B, but don't forget, the program lasted multiple years, so that money was spread out over a period of time. It was a small amount each year for a country our size...and it is a much better way to "stimulate" our economy than to send out checks which get spent at Wal-Mart (ie China) and on drugs. NASA employs American workers who spend money here, the spaceship is not made overseas, and taxpayers get benefits from what has been developed and discovered over the many years of NASA.

And Maybe they'll find Obama's parents and birth certificate up there. Yea, and Romney's "stash" as someone mentioned earlier.

2 upvotes
stromaroma
By stromaroma (Aug 9, 2012)

The US is toast, as is the whole world. They can't even put a man in space anymore. We're at Peak Oil now, and 95% of the energy we use comes from burning dead things, it's all downhill here on out until the Malthusian Collapse in a few decades. The US imports 1/2 of its oil. When the debt-based financial system implodes soon ad the US can no longer import oil then we'll finally realize how far we've stripped Mother Earth of her resources. About 4 billion people will die, give or take a few billion.

0 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 9, 2012)

Wow so much ranting on the image quality...

Me I'm happy the United States' NASA still goes on missions like this, in the name of discovery and learning. While its residents and the rest of the world concentrate on luxury... or getting there.

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 9, 2012)

These plantary probes takemore than a decade tod esign and build. By the time they get around to launching, the technology onboard is old and outdated. NASA needs to modify its design and testing policies to allow the newest and best technology to be installed on the probes shortly before launch. As an insurance measure they could still include the old but thoroughly tested and prooven technology, while allowing a place for newer technology to be installed.

Since Curiosity has 17 cameras on board, they could have made room for at least one state of the art camera. Given the quality of images that we can get from tiny point and shoot cameras, there's no reason why they couldn't have a installed a more advanced version on board.

Even the engineers who designed the craft so many years ago had no idea how quickly and how far digital cameras would advance before it was launched.

0 upvotes
snegron
By snegron (Aug 9, 2012)

A blurry, sepia picture with no detail. Nice. Definitely worth a billion dollars...

0 upvotes
Sean Nelson
By Sean Nelson (Aug 9, 2012)

The image is cloudy because it was taken with the dust shield still in place, and it got covered with fine dust during the landing sequence. The dust shield is transparent so that they can still take pictures even if there's a failure in the mechanism that's supposed to swing it away from the lens.

Just about everything in this mission has gone perfectly so far (knock wood!), and it's shaping up to be as successful as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, both of which far exceeded their expected lifetimes.

0 upvotes
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 9, 2012)

It's a test image, duh.

1 upvote
chooflaki
By chooflaki (Aug 8, 2012)

Reading posts on this topic confirms that the averaged out IQ of posters comes to about 2 megapixels.

6 upvotes
ulfie
By ulfie (Aug 8, 2012)

I wonder if Romney has any money stashed away on Mars...

1 upvote
tenstripe
By tenstripe (Aug 11, 2012)

yes, he wrote it all off, allowing him to make even more money.

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Aug 8, 2012)

(looking at the penny) I guess the sensor is not that bad for 1909... but it took them damn gubmint 102 years to make this thing from the first part to the last.

0 upvotes
tanera
By tanera (Aug 8, 2012)

These are inspiring photos.
Since I have recently got a great deal on a timeshare on Saturn from ebay,can anyone recommend what lens I should take for my Panny G3.
I might also need to upgrade my tripod feet to operate on seas of liquid methane- any suggestions folks?

0 upvotes
Laminated
By Laminated (Aug 8, 2012)

DPReview - thank you for posting the details of some of the cameras on the Curiosity rover. I'm surprised you've got so much detail here - typically this info is tightly controlled.

To those underwhelmed by the cameras, speaking as an engineer who has designed parts of a camera in Mars orbit, I can tell you:
- engineers at Malin, JPL and NASA know what they are doing and being cost effective is a daily concern.
- the optical engineers do know how to design a camera and they understand light.
- this is a science mission balanced with generating public support
- the system requirements are very demanding for such a mission - the launch is incredibly violent, weight is tracked to the tenth of a gram, space is cold (duh), temperature swings are Mars are very large, etc.
- power is provided by solar panels, not recharcheable Li-Ion batteries.
- communication to Mars is not like plugging in a USB cable
- if something breaks, you can't take it in for service.

5 upvotes
Midnighter
By Midnighter (Aug 8, 2012)

Power is NOT provided by solar cells. Its provided by a NUCLEAR generator!

Here you go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBtXnug-rgM&f

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Aug 9, 2012)

The development of these craft takes many many years and just like Voyager, they end up being equiped with old outdated equipment.

I actually made some of the componants that were installed on the Viking Mars landers. They were upgraded versions of devices that were in use in oil refineries, chemical plants and nuclear powerplants. They were designed to endure conditions that make a trip to Mars look like a walk in the park. Between the time the parts were made and the actual launch, production of the device was discontinued and it was replaced by new (and very well tested) technology that was not only more sensitive and accurate, but also more reliable and durable than what was installed on the lander. The new devices were being installed in oil refineries a few years before Vikings launch. One of the refineries exploded and burned but all the new devices survived the blast and fire.

With 17 cameras on board, there's no reason 1 of them could not be more advanced.

0 upvotes
stratplaya
By stratplaya (Aug 8, 2012)

I am not impressed. The photos from the Viking missions in 1976 were much better.

0 upvotes
doak
By doak (Aug 9, 2012)

The Viking cameras were one pixel line scanners. They used a tilting mirror to scan the vertical on a rotating mount to allow scanning of the horizontal. Every image is assembled or stitched. Truly amazing the quality that came back.

Once the transparent dust covers are removed (they were in place for the image at the top of this article) from Curiosity's cameras one 2 MP images from Curiosity will be better than any single 'image' from Viking. Stitching will produce even better final images.

0 upvotes
neo_nights
By neo_nights (Aug 8, 2012)

Does it have Face Detection? It'd be pretty useful in case a martian appears.

8 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Aug 8, 2012)

Why do you think they have a face?

0 upvotes
jsis
By jsis (Aug 8, 2012)

They should have mounted a Nikon D-whatever or a Canon 1ds mark whatever with $10000 leica lenses and call it a day, takes far better pictures and video than this crappy camera. NASA does not know anything about photography.

...

0 upvotes
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Aug 8, 2012)

Yeah, it's hardly as if NASA has any experience with digital imaging. And I have absolute confidence that Canon's latest 1Ds is not only waterproof, but radiation-proof as well.

8 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 9, 2012)

The bulk and weight and complexity of operating a Nikon D4/D800 or Canon 1Dx/5D MkIII remotely on Curiosity would probably cost a million more dollars alone.

Before I say NASA does not know anything about photography, perhaps I should ask myself if I know anything of the following subjects:

1. Rocket science (propulsion and everything in it)
2. Economics of space and weight
3. Robotics
4. Programming

I'm not even sure if I used the right terms, but it's ridiculous to say NASA's been ignorant of the photographic requirements of the mission. I believe it's just that the photo guys have to work also with a helluva larger team of chemists, physicists, geologists, and other scientists whos MINI-LABS also take up space in Curiosity's compartments.

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
warriormouse
By warriormouse (Aug 8, 2012)

yes brilliant, and i support these guys 100% in what they're doing, but where's the cat?

1 upvote
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 9, 2012)

It's spiders. At least according to David Bowie...

0 upvotes
Biowizard
By Biowizard (Aug 8, 2012)

To those who are moaning that, for the US, $2.5bn is too much to send this incredible machine to Mars, I reply that this mission's costs pale compared to the $15bn that the UK has just spent to let people run around in circles for 2 weeks on a track. That's right: brilliant rocket science at 6 times less than the cost of a sports day.

This Mars mission is incredible, and of course they will be using older, proven, radiation-hardened tech rather than the latest-gee-whiz cameras that won't even work on Planet Earth for another 12 months, while Nikon corrects the firmware or Canon invents a better glue for its mirrors.

Stop whingeing, engage your brains, and open your minds to the incredible achievement that NASA's latest rover represents.

And consider: most of the electronics and hi-tech materials that make your latest gee-whiz toys work the way they do, WOULD NOT EVEN EXIST were it not for previous NASA missions.

Jeez, some of you guys just don't get it, do you?

Brian

Comment edited 44 seconds after posting
23 upvotes
Walter Konrad
By Walter Konrad (Aug 8, 2012)

Yes, good comaprision, although a lot of hi - tech would exist, without NASA. Let´s see what they have in store. The feat is astonishing all the way up to now.

1 upvote
Boky
By Boky (Aug 8, 2012)

it is not just a sports day. it is supposed to bring nations together so that we don't have wars and suffering.

Boky

0 upvotes
Biowizard
By Biowizard (Aug 8, 2012)

Boky, more than a few of the nations competing in the Olympics ARE currently at war - and there's no ceasefire, even for these couple of weeks. Boys and girls running/jumping/throwing/swimming/etc fixes NOTHING. The Men With Guns And Bombs will continue their attrocities, no matter who can ride a BMX fastest in East London. Yeah, SAD. But TRUE. :-(

5 upvotes
tenstripe
By tenstripe (Aug 11, 2012)

Yes, it cost the price of a movie ticket. How many hundreds of billions did the last blockbuster gross.

0 upvotes
MarceloLI
By MarceloLI (Aug 8, 2012)

Yes, then image quality is horrible.

I understand NASA had in mind to put a Nikon D800 on the Curiosity and they order it from B&H unfortunately the camera never arrived on time.

12 upvotes
slncezgsi
By slncezgsi (Aug 8, 2012)

:D

0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 8, 2012)

The should have bought it gray, out of Hong Kong. Would have had it weeks earlier. True, Nikon USA wouldn't honor the warranty but they could send it to some other continent.

2 upvotes
Lukefotografia
By Lukefotografia (Aug 8, 2012)

LOL... 7 months and waiting.

0 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (Aug 8, 2012)

I think NASA made a mistake here: to publish an early image with poor quality, DPR would pick up upon and trolls would make any discussion 99% noise.

I think, with a lander project this expensive, stunning photography sent back from Mars is crucial for public acceptance.

I see that the quality is much worse than 2MP alone would explain. So, I guess they have problems with image quality (like dust, maybe from the landing or the current "weather") and what we see probably is an early test image.

So, they have to wait for better conditions and shoot a 16 image panorama which they can stitch into a stunning pano for the public. At that time, DPR should have reported, not now! But it is important that NASA is going to do this. I hope they are aware of this. I guess they are.

Last note: Of course, the conservative nature of space projects made them use an outdated camera technology. Which is sad. But I don't think it is limiting the quality of images we're going to see in the future.

1 upvote
Jon Stern
By Jon Stern (Aug 8, 2012)

Quote: "The image was taken... from behind the dust shield designed to protect the camera."

5 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 8, 2012)

This is the first colour image to be posted from Mars!

If there are some cool panoramas later, we'll publish those, too. But, given this picture is new and we'd got some information about the lenses and sensors that hadn't been widely published, we absolutely had to publish now.

7 upvotes
epo001
By epo001 (Aug 8, 2012)

You're seriously suggesting that NASA should not publish images because some idiots on DPR might generate trolling comments?

8 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (Aug 8, 2012)

@R Butler,

There is more chroma noise than color, so why then at least didn't you publish a photo where at least /something/ is visible? Like in:

http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/674898main_pia16013-full_full.jpg

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 8, 2012)

Because that hadn't been released when we published this story and it's not from the main imaging cameras - that's from the navigation cameras. This is the first color image from Mars - that seemed quite exciting, even if it's only a taste of what's to come.

8 upvotes
Boky
By Boky (Aug 8, 2012)

retrieving colour shots from pure noise is a science, an incredible achievement on NASA behalf.

Boky

0 upvotes
tenstripe
By tenstripe (Aug 11, 2012)

Don't forget that those low res images need less storage space and can be sent much quicker. And their not exactly portraits their of dirt and hills somtimes kilometers away.

0 upvotes
gargalamouth
By gargalamouth (Aug 8, 2012)

Dear DP stuff,when you post the review of Mastcam 34 please include some panorama shots and 3D ones if possible. If they are better than sony's {SLT-57}, then i will go for the Mastcam!
Lack of GPS is understandable cause Geo-tagging is illegal in Mars, like in China,Syria, Egypt and Corea.
i am also impressed by the strength of its Wireless transmitter! Well done folks!
Show must go on.

0 upvotes
km25
By km25 (Aug 8, 2012)

I would like to know who makes the lens. My father worked in areospace as an engineer. He told me when you send something to far off place like Mars. The cutting edge is not always the best. What is proven and reliable is much more important. The use of power and bandwidth (radio, digital) is critical. Send a 20meg file would take up to much time per image. This cause delays in experiment time, doing and how many can be done. Transmiting images is done with a low wattage transmiter, both lenght of time for image transmit and loss of data because it is so long.The life of the rover has limits.Time and power usage is not on your side. They know what hey are doing. You have to rember, this IS rocket science.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
8 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Aug 8, 2012)

OK, now we know that image is so poor quality because of dust, raised when landing. Who's gonna clean the lenses? I hope it will be Martians.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (Aug 8, 2012)

"The dust shield will be removed, promising better images, once the dust kicked-up by its landing has settled."

i.e., the dust cap is ejectable.

5 upvotes
estorm
By estorm (Aug 8, 2012)

The "cleaners" will be cleaning the lenses, of course!
If you don't know what I mean, check out "Wool" by "Hugh Howey" :-)

0 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

If 2mpx is enough, maybe the next camera the NASA will use on Mars will be Lytro Light Field Camera. Focus afterward, very convenient don't you think ?

2 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Too much data I guess.

0 upvotes
ryanshoots
By ryanshoots (Aug 8, 2012)

It sucks, the banding is horrible. Why didn't they use the new Sony sensor.

Officials at Nasa think so too and they are sending it back after the trial period. They're ordering a D800

There was some consternation of the Nikon choice because the Martian skin tones would turn out all green/grey. Hey, wait a minute... Nikon could be the go to camera for Martians.

Just the other day, I saw a thread started by someone at Nasa.

Subject read: "incoming!"
Body contained: I just pulled the trigger on the D800. Got it at Amzn. Combined some gift cards I had from Xmas, along with a discount for opening an Amzn change card and $150 dollar back Amzn gift card and a free 16 gig card. Now waiting for the brown truck. Should have my first cat shots up by early next week.

0 upvotes
HaiderAfridi
By HaiderAfridi (Aug 8, 2012)

I'm sure many on these forums will be disappointed that no photos were taken of a cat.

But there be no cats on Mars.

6 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

No cat but according to Japanese, there are plenty of rabbits (cf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rabbit ).

0 upvotes
anthony mazzeri
By anthony mazzeri (Aug 8, 2012)

There was one, but the rover landed right on top of it.

Curiosity killed the...

5 upvotes
NikLG
By NikLG (Aug 8, 2012)

good one....

0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 8, 2012)

Cats? There's better. I've seen a gallery here at DPR of someone who photographed cork panels. Now THAT'S a subject: cork panels! Unfortunately it's very unlikely that cork panels will be found on Mars.

0 upvotes
anthonyGR
By anthonyGR (Aug 8, 2012)

There are also gorillas on Mars. Don't take my word, search on youtube :-)

0 upvotes
jsis
By jsis (Aug 8, 2012)

or birds, or planes, or someone else's child, daughter...

0 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (Aug 8, 2012)

Will everyone asking for super high resolution sensors on the cameras please go out and shoot a memory card full of 32 megapixel RAW images and 100+ mb/sec 1080p @ 60 FPS movies and then try to upload those over a 3G connection?

Last time I checked LTE 4G has not made it to that area of Mars yet. Once that happens I am sure that they will be able to get much higher resolution images and videos from their rovers.

GO NASA!

5 upvotes
Jakub Kubica
By Jakub Kubica (Aug 8, 2012)

But then... you can shoot 32mpixel image and scale it down to flawless 2mpix...

0 upvotes
australopithecus
By australopithecus (Aug 8, 2012)

Ardee ! I hope your comment was tongue in cheek.

0 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Aug 8, 2012)

I must say, I'm a little bit disappointed of sensor specs. Maybe one good 18Mpx sensor would be great for taking good pictures. But. Taking pictures is not the main goal of this mission. Curiosity is looking for signs of life, at least extinct. I hope he will find. When the man will go to the Mars, they will take Canon, for sure.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
jameshamm
By jameshamm (Aug 8, 2012)

Sensor specs are not that much of an issue on a robotic arm. You can stagger pictures to create any resolution image.

1 upvote
MarkByland
By MarkByland (Aug 8, 2012)

I must say, I'm little disappointed in the lack of respect for what NASA has accomplished.

19 upvotes
HaiderAfridi
By HaiderAfridi (Aug 8, 2012)

Agreed!

2 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

You mean a brand new studio in the Area 51 ? Cf: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/5780272/Moon-landing-anniversary-10-reasons-the-Apollo-landings-were-faked.html

0 upvotes
seilerbird666
By seilerbird666 (Aug 8, 2012)

It is strange to read all these moronic comments from people who are obviously do not know one thing about this mission. There are 17, count them, 17 cameras on board. So far only a few of the cameras are working. In a week or so when Curiosity has all her systems checked out and all her cameras working you are going to see some hi res images that will make you drool.

5 upvotes
nicoboston
By nicoboston (Aug 8, 2012)

Is it really strange to read moronic comments on DPR?
Morons have always existed. Now they have the opportunity to show their moronity to the world. Luckily, talented engineers and genius have also always existed. Images from NASA and others make me drool on a daily basis. Enjoy and ignore the morons...

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 8, 2012)

The problem is that everybody on DPR is a professional. NASA may know how to put a camera on Mars but I'll bet those guys don't know anything about taking vacation pictures with a D800 set to auto-everything.

1 upvote
jsis
By jsis (Aug 8, 2012)

what do you expect from anyone with more money than brains... this is not a site solely dedicated to artistic photographers.

1 upvote
ardee
By ardee (Aug 8, 2012)

How do we know, that those pictures are really from mars ;)

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

To be or not to be (from Mars) that is the ($2.5 billion) question !

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Only 7 fps? If a Martian is fast enough, they will miss the shot!

9 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 8, 2012)

Don't worry. High frame per second rates are not strictly needed, because Mars inhabitants are spiders (the famous 'Spiders From Mars', as any good old David Bowie fan knows) and they move really slow, so that's a non-issue.

1 upvote
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (Aug 8, 2012)

3 years from now NASA will release a firmware update boosting capture to 25fps.

1 upvote
rmbackus
By rmbackus (Aug 8, 2012)

That pixel resolution is a strong argument, that pixel-counting is for the consumers market.
In the analogue era no professional photographer was worrying about Tri-X or Panatomic-X grain.
I never encounter pixel limits in digital pictures, just optical limits.

1 upvote
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 8, 2012)

Well not really, the images are mounted on a motorised platform that can automatically take multi-image panoramas, so they can have any resolution they want.

Also I think you've forgotten what 2MP cameras were like, because of the bayer filtering the actual sharpness you get from them is poor at anything above screen resolution. A 2 (or "6") MP Foevon type sensor would probably look good, but more resolution on a bayer sensor always helps up to 2x the lens' maximum resolution.

Comment edited 12 minutes after posting
1 upvote
JJJPhoto
By JJJPhoto (Aug 8, 2012)

Although they probably could have used image sensors with higher MP counts, keep in mind that all this data has to be sent a LONG distance back to Earth. Some people complain about how slow the Eye-Fi cards are at transmitting images to an iPad ... imagine how slow the process is for transmitting a massive image file from Mars!

0 upvotes
viking79
By viking79 (Aug 8, 2012)

Agree, a 20 MP image would take much too long to transmit back to earth. The rover would first send it to one of the orbiters around Mars, and the orbiter would blast it back to earth since it is much higher power, but it would still take up 10 times the bandwidth as the 2 MP image.

However, I don't think that is the only problem. The bottom line is the sensor needs to meet extreme specifications and I imagine that is one of the few sensors adequately tested/qualified to operate in those environments.

1 upvote
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

Also the watts consumed by the 17 sensors are a big problem without any USB charger around.

A better sensor could spend twice as much power, or ten times, and the rover needs to survive to a martian winter -cross fingers- and still take some stills from time to time.

2 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

I fear a lot of us are wrong. The datas and photographs are probably not transmitted directly to Earth as it is quite far from Mars and our deep atmosphere is a real shield protecting our planet from what comes from space, including any form of radio signals and radiations. In fact the transmission must be from Mars to any NASA and/or military satellites in orbit around the earth, which purpose is to offer a larger "window of transmission" and are designed specifically to transmit to certain stations on earth.

Stop thinking as if we were still in the 60's, there are a lot of satellites now above our heads, and this network works really well: why one would prefer to use a huge amount of energy to emit some information flow directly from mars through the atmosphere and the clouds while he can use satellites as buffers and proxies ?

1 upvote
Leichhardt
By Leichhardt (Aug 8, 2012)

I believe the information goes directly to three ground stations. They are huge radio telescopes and have the capability to pick up the weak data stream emanating either from Curiosity or from data transferred from one of the Satellites orbiting Mars. One station is in California, one is located near Canberra, Australia (70m dish) I can't remember where the third one is.

2 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 9, 2012)

Well, that's what I said. In the next topic (cf: http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/08/08/Curiosity-interview-with-Malin-Space-Science-Systems-Mike-Ravine ) we learn that the rover emits its informations not directly to our planet but to a proxy: "There are three ways for Curiosity, to broadcast data back to Earth - but it's only the UHF transmitter that can be used for transmitting the amounts of data required for sending back images. 'The UHF antenna transmits to two spacecraft orbiting Mars, which relay the results back to Earth. That's where most of the data is coming from. "

So OK, Curiosity even doesn't transmit its photographs as far as satellites in orbit around the Earth, but it uses orbiting spacecrafts orbiting around Mars that can be used as well as relays.

0 upvotes
ivanyuen
By ivanyuen (Aug 9, 2012)

search "Deep Space Network" on Google or Wiki...that's what you talking about.

0 upvotes
nicoboston
By nicoboston (Aug 8, 2012)

I see orbs.
The image is soft.
White balance is not accurate.

NASA sucks...

12 upvotes
GMart
By GMart (Aug 8, 2012)

You get your camera there and do better then Nico...

5 upvotes
Cane
By Cane (Aug 8, 2012)

Not real good at getting humor and sarcasm, are you?

6 upvotes
oselimg
By oselimg (Aug 8, 2012)

You are too optimistic to expect any humour in these forums. You have to say things like...yawn 2mp, nikon-canon-sony, bigger, faster, mega, newer model, pixel count, 500% crop for a pornographic pixel peeping. Then they will find something in it for themselves. And they are dead serious too...

0 upvotes
dmanthree
By dmanthree (Aug 8, 2012)

No banding, though, right? Heh, heh...

1 upvote
nicoboston
By nicoboston (Aug 8, 2012)

Hi guys,

I just want to let you know that, in my culture, we don't need to write "just kidding" at the end of a sentence to notify the readers that we are kidding...
I am amazed by the images send by Curiosity, as I was amazed by Spirit, Opportunity and the others...
It's pure magic to me, and NASA has always amazed me. Sometime I regret that I was not born earlier, just to see these guys running on the moon.
Obviously some of you do not understand sarcasm. A while ago a guy in France said "You can laugh at everything, but not with everyone". This is truer than ever.

NASA, please continue to amaze me!

And Curiosity deserves a DPR Silver Award :-)))

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
7 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

This guy's name was Pierre Desproges, a famous french humorist who used to play with caustic humour... fortunately in a way, he died some years ago just in time to not see what our sense of humour has tuned in these last 20 years: never joke without a smiley that tells "Kidding everyone, I'm kidding!"

The quote in french: "On peut rire de tout, mais pas avec n'importe qui"

0 upvotes
OttoVonChriek
By OttoVonChriek (Aug 8, 2012)

Maybe NASA's scientists have learnt how to match optical resolution to pixel pitch, and figured out that optical resolution is directly proportional to size and weight.

So they say "I want the best image I can get with 2 kilos", and end up using a 2Mp sensor.

I do hope this technology will get passed along to the consumer camera market.

0 upvotes
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 8, 2012)

I don't see any use for this in consumer gear, these cameras are mounted on a motorised platform designed to take multi-image panoramas automatically, if you try to use a 2mp bayer camera for a single image it will look poor at anything larger than screen resolution due to having to interpolate the image. All other things being equal higher resolution bayer sensors will give you more detail until you get to around 2x the lens' maximum resolution.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 8, 2012)

Those fools at NASA know nothing about photography! What do you mean 2 MP? Haven't they heard about the Nokia 808? And a sensor similar in size to Nikon's 1-series? You gotta be kidding! It's full frame, 36 MP, or nothing!
There I said it. I believe these were the thoughts that ran through many people's minds when they read the cameras' technical specifications, completely oblivious to the incredible technical prowess of exploring another planet. Do they see the benefit this brings to humanity in terms of knowledge of the universe?
...Probably not. They're too worried about sensor area, MP count and high ISO to care.

1 upvote
Martin Grecner
By Martin Grecner (Aug 8, 2012)

Right, and I also wonder whether it has a GPS unit for proper geo-tagging. ;-)

7 upvotes
dpjoe1
By dpjoe1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Of course it has GPS, but bummer the satellite Nav system is down.

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 8, 2012)

ManuelVilardeMacedo:

Why extoll the not very good Nokia 808? Well at least it's light. However a "full frame" system would sure weigh more than a "1inch" system.

And weight is kinda of really important here.

Don't you think that the mission planning types selected the best sensor available that could pass extreme testing in preparation for the mission?

It's not like these cameras were quickly put together say in 2010/2011.

Better a good 2MB camera you're pretty sure is going to work, provided the rover lands safely on Mars, than a camera that you're not sure about because it uses new technologies not yet tested for space travel and landing on another planet.

0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 8, 2012)

Someone here wrote there are people uncapable of grasping humour and sarcasm. Do you by any chance count yourself amongst them, HowaboutRAW?
Relax and enjoy the photos from Mars.

2 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 8, 2012)

ManuelVilardeMacedo:

And by the way you wrote it you could very well be one of those "many".

That you go on to point out that this a genuine milestone, doesn't make the first paragraph ironical.

The thing is it (the purported irony) could all work as a speech or video. Text is harder.

0 upvotes
tanera
By tanera (Aug 8, 2012)

It's all very well sending a nokia 808 to mars but has anyone considered the patchy 3G reception on the red planet?

0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 8, 2012)

Some people do have difficulties with subtlety. Next time I'll just draw something.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 9, 2012)

ManuelVilardeMacedo:

Still not getting this: the way you wrote it means that you could be one of the many who've questioned the pixel count.

That your point could be read the other way is also possible.
Ambiguity is not necessarily the same as being subtle. Though ambiguity can be used as cover or as a way of subtly disclosing a problem with the argument.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Aug 9, 2012)

HowaboutRAW - are you trolling?

0 upvotes
Steve Ives
By Steve Ives (Aug 8, 2012)

Pitcure of another plaet? Ptooey! Some of the DPreview regulars will just look at the EXIF data to see if it's a good photo or not! <adopt boring, nasal voice> "What? F8 at that pixel pitch? I don't need to see the picutre - it'll be too noisy for my eyes to bear looking at".

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
1 upvote
oly
By oly (Aug 8, 2012)

Lookout incoming....Martian barn owl at 10 o'clock!!!!

0 upvotes
farrukh
By farrukh (Aug 8, 2012)

Very exciting, well done NASA. I love that the photo is wonky!

0 upvotes
Alan Brown
By Alan Brown (Aug 8, 2012)

was it a Billion dollars to send this to Mars? (vaguely remember this figure in a news broadcast.. might be a whole lot more. )

Great inovations and technical skills to get it there .. no doubt abut that. But you can't walk here on Earth in the daytime and feel 100% safe.

begs the question....

1 upvote
p-dub
By p-dub (Aug 8, 2012)

next time we'll ask them to spend some of the money to exterminate pumas and lions so you'll feel 100% safe walking here on Earth.

6 upvotes
svuori
By svuori (Aug 8, 2012)

Just get a spiffy super-safe treadmill and you can walk safely all you want.

4 upvotes
darkref
By darkref (Aug 8, 2012)

oh, did you want that 1 billion to be put in to the US military budget which costs around $700 billion a year?

6 upvotes
Steve Ives
By Steve Ives (Aug 8, 2012)

Don't worry - the money never left Earth so it's still here to spend.

5 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (Aug 8, 2012)

$2.5B, iirc - mostly spread over probably 5-7 years.

As for using it domestically to "make Earth safe," nothing will make our planet 100% safe; thinking it can be made so is a large part of our current political problems.

3 upvotes
Dapple 101
By Dapple 101 (Aug 8, 2012)

Alan, the only questions I'm asking are:

"Where would we be if, throughout history, people had no ambition to explore their surroundings?"

"Why do people question the price of everything but understand the value of nothing?"

"Why do you think that, as an alternative to sending this amazing craft to Mars, NASA would have spent the money making the streets of Birmingham safer?"

3 upvotes
dpjoe1
By dpjoe1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Earth won't be safe until its infestation of homo sapiens clears up.

1 upvote
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 8, 2012)

I can think of a lot worse ways to spend the money

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Alan Brown
By Alan Brown (Aug 8, 2012)

replies as expected....

none of you can think of 'anything' better to have spent the money on.. No one has a sick relative, son, daughter, or some incurable disease that just needs some funding to help find a cure... er No? let's send some fabulous hardware to Mars.. Next comment?

0 upvotes
Stephen123
By Stephen123 (Aug 8, 2012)

Fundamental research pays off better than most other investments. This has been shown over and over. Space exploration DOES help us here on Earth. Or look at the Large Hadron Collider. Again, fundamental research. One accidental side effect? The World Wide Web.

3 upvotes
Dan W
By Dan W (Aug 8, 2012)

@p-dub

A lot of funny/witty comments here (and some ignorant ones) but I really did LOL at yours!

0 upvotes
tenstripe
By tenstripe (Aug 11, 2012)

People shouldn't be fixated on the money. It is the motion of doing somthing, moving somthing, and getting the picture that should be celebrated. If it is too expensive it's the people who set the policies that make us all poor that are to blame. We are a pitiful society if we can't afford to move our minds and bodies to accomplish anything.

0 upvotes
chooflaki
By chooflaki (Aug 8, 2012)

Anyone who is unimpressed that a camera of the capabilities of the d800 is not on Curiosity should be patient. It may happen in 2022. Problem is, by then we will have the D2001 camera credit card phone and the same criticisms will apply. Planetary probes are incredibly complex to design and build and may take over a decade to develop. NASA cannot afford to change the specs every year to accommodate the latest greatest gear.

3 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (Aug 8, 2012)

Lets say Im slightly puzzled about their camera equipment. If Im correct, Curiosity works on some kind of nuclear engine. So they managed to put nuclear reactor into something with size of average car and couldnt pack decent sensor/lens along?

2 upvotes
erin.
By erin. (Aug 8, 2012)

I'd love to believe I am dense and missing the sarcasm here, but just in case it isn't in all of these posts . . . every pixel taken has to travel 154 million miles and takes 13.8 minutes to do so at the speed of light. It requires energy to do that, and Curiosity only has enough plutonium for a year. The largest purpose of this mission is to identify possible organic compounds with a chem lab. When the power slows to a trickle, I want the chem lab running, not a camera taking 4 18MP pics every second it lacks the energy to transmit.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (Aug 8, 2012)

Actually it's a radio-isotope thermal generator, or RTG. Not nuclear reactor but rather a decaying radioactive isotope that generates heat which is fed into a solid state Peltier junction to produce electric current (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator). There are almost no moving parts and, from an operational standpoint, they are dead simple devices which have very few failure modes.

5 upvotes
erin.
By erin. (Aug 8, 2012)

Jordan, thank you, I'd corrected my error as you posted the correction. I'm very pleased with the power source; for decades we've been told by mainstream media that treaties wouldn't allow the launch of radioactive materials. There are now several satellites operating successful on nuclear power of one kind or another.

0 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (Aug 8, 2012)

It's a fairly common misconception. Usually, the biggest penalty for flying an RTG is the weight of the sheild and casing in the event of a failure. Most RTGs are (iirc) encased in a shield of MP35N, a multi-phase Nickel alloy with very high strength and anti-corrosion properties. The primary payload trunnions for the space shuttle mount points were made of them because they were single-point failure locations and had to be (essentially) guaranteed to work. The first I heard of MP35N was from my boss at NASA, who told me that in 10,000 years - after WW3 and the destruction and decay of everything mankind created - the MP35N parts will be lying at the bottom of the ocean. And they will still be shiny and clean like the day they were polished. A bit of hyperbole, but that stuff is very, very tough.

I think RTG material is often a byproduct of munitions refinement. Without nukes, we're actually running out of RTG-useful material. Ironic, huh?

3 upvotes
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 8, 2012)

@Mescalamba the cameras are optimised to take the most scientifically useful images, not the best holiday snaps.

1 upvote
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Aug 8, 2012)

@erin Curiosity actually has enough nuclear fuel to last at least 14 years, if nothing else breaks first.

1 upvote
harold1968
By harold1968 (Aug 8, 2012)

Thom Hogan is going to have a real beef about the placement of the video button!

10 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

BEST comment ever on DPreview. Period.

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Ando72
By Ando72 (Aug 8, 2012)

The design parameters, in order of priority, were probably (1) reliability, (2) reliability, (3) reliability, (4) survability of the space journey, (5) bandwidth, (6) resolution. If you only have once to get it right, and it absolutely must work first time, you start making different design decisions.

The Mars Rovers used 1980's tech processors, primarily because NASA had already done the "space-izing" to ensure they were reliable enough for space missions. It costs in the order of several $M to develop a new processor and prove it to be reliable enough for space missions. I would imagine cameras and imaging equipment to be on a similar scale.

6 upvotes
Anonymous Gerbil
By Anonymous Gerbil (Aug 8, 2012)

Just to add to that, Curiosity has main processors that are closely related to the CPU of a Wii or various older Apple hardware (some "G3" models), and lots of other small industrial applications. So you could say that after the design was thoroughly tested by many years of real world use, it was selected for radiation hardening. In this form, it runs much slower than it usually would on Earth, many years ago!

0 upvotes
John 3
By John 3 (Aug 8, 2012)

They sent a stock Hasselblad to the moon and it took gorgeous photos.

0 upvotes
jameshamm
By jameshamm (Aug 8, 2012)

@John 3 - wink.

0 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

John 3: They also sended a couple of living astronauts with the camera, remember!

0 upvotes
jsis
By jsis (Aug 8, 2012)

but I thought Canon and Olympus produced the most effective dust reduction systems ever... but instead they rely on Kodak?

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Aug 8, 2012)

yep it's still a desert. Great work Nasa!

0 upvotes
lost_in_utah
By lost_in_utah (Aug 8, 2012)

I read through ALL of the comments. I think an intelligence test should be mandatory before a person is allowed to post on an online forum. The comments by some make me cry due to the extreme ignorance exhibited.

10 upvotes
fireplace33
By fireplace33 (Aug 8, 2012)

Maybe some didn't score top marks on the test, but at least they didn't get lost in utah !

7 upvotes
iaredatsun
By iaredatsun (Aug 8, 2012)

You're new here, then? ;)

0 upvotes
Biowizard
By Biowizard (Aug 8, 2012)

Agreed - most of the comments on this article were purchased directly from "Morons-R-Us" ... it's a pity most folks here have fewer brain cells than NASA's sensors have pixels ...

Brian

5 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

At least we are good photographers... or aren't we? Noooo?!

1 upvote
AngryCorgi
By AngryCorgi (Aug 8, 2012)

When is this sensor gonna hit DXOmark? I bet the DR is crap. Still probably better than those dang Canon sensors though.

1 upvote
InTheMist
By InTheMist (Aug 8, 2012)

Congratulations NASA and JPL! God speed Curiosity.

2 upvotes
backayonder
By backayonder (Aug 8, 2012)

I wonder if it will discover the replacement D300s up there?

7 upvotes
bearseamen
By bearseamen (Aug 8, 2012)

lol

0 upvotes
Total comments: 282
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