Previous news story    Next news story

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
backayonder
By backayonder (Aug 8, 2012)

They were going to use the latest Fuji but the Lander has enough on its plate without having to struggle with focus.

Okay Okay I jest!

3 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (Aug 8, 2012)

Those orbs are aliens! Those orbs are aliens!
:-P

5 upvotes
Boxbrownie
By Boxbrownie (Aug 8, 2012)

Why all the speculation and brickbats?

They just successfully landed a vehicle that will drive around on the surface of Mars, analyse data and send pictures back we could only dream of when we walked on the moon in 1969......you have to trust they know what they are doing.

Better get back to the Nikanon next generation rumour mill, you have more chance of being listened to in there! :)

2 upvotes
Rutgerbus
By Rutgerbus (Aug 8, 2012)

NASA should just have sent Chuck Norris over with A D800E and the Holy Trinity and he will defenately Roundhouse Kicked those Kodak KAI-2020CM sensor images. ;-)

1 upvote
AmaturFotografer
By AmaturFotografer (Aug 8, 2012)

Any sighting of John Carter of Mars? :P

You all know what this mean? Stop the megapixel war, 2mp is enough, even for NASA.. hahaha

2 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

No, but Jimmy Carter has seen a UFO from Mars (cf: http://youtu.be/f52KkM9i33c ). Is the compensation good enough ?

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

Jimmy Carter filed a UFO report a zillion years ago, and was satisfied by the explanation that it was Venus, which is usually what it is when someone sees a UFO.

0 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus. Everything's clear now, poor Mr President who has been duped by some pimp from the outer space...

My God ! If the E.T he secretly met was not from Venus, did he took "this E.T from Mars" for a femal ? Consequently, what was the organ he shook so vigourously ? A hand, really ? With just one finger ? Oh my, something's rotten somewhere...

0 upvotes
Poul Jensen
By Poul Jensen (Aug 8, 2012)

"A $2.5 billion project and their cameras have 2MP Kodak sensors?!?"

Yes, and you can thank your favorite camera manufacturer for the fact that their high-end camera technology cannot be used for science. Scientists need to know exactly what their equipment is doing, and the major commercial manufacturers won't tell - not even to NASA. And so scientists have to go to smaller manufacturers that are willing to cooperate and release full info.

It's a compelling idea that scientists should have the best equipment available. Unfortunately, commercial interests cannot be compromised.

4 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Aug 8, 2012)

That is why Nikon digital cameras have been used so much on the STS missions, right? LOL

1 upvote
mjuchno
By mjuchno (Aug 8, 2012)

When you sell a camera, you need to provide a user manual.
When you sell a technology, you need to provide a technical documentation...

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Right, Octane ! And Nikon seems to do it well even in the outer space: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/locations/photography_in_space.shtml

Once again I tell it to some of us: please stay away from prejudice !

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

Its not clear to me that the rover would benefit from high resolution sensors. If they need to see something up close, they drive over to it, and examine it with a lot more than a mere camera.

2 upvotes
Poul Jensen
By Poul Jensen (Aug 8, 2012)

Yes, Nikon cameras work in space and can take spectacular photos there. But those aren't used for scientific analysis.

4 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Probably because there was no proposal to do so. For sure Nikon would be so happy to provide a perfectly good sensor/lens to the NASA, imagine the free promotion for it's brand it would represent !

That said, I'm not angry the NASA uses Kodak sensors first as I like a lot that company, and second because Japanese are used to work essentially for the Japan Inc excluding as much as they can any foreign companies from their businesses. Sometimes they have to be aware they are not always the best ones in technology neither absolutely indispensables.

1 upvote
SUPERHOKIE
By SUPERHOKIE (Aug 8, 2012)

Why couldn't they have used a wider lens?? a 90mm lens as the only lens?? that doesn't make too much sense, unless they want to do a stitch panorama of the martian landscape

0 upvotes
MichaelEchos
By MichaelEchos (Aug 8, 2012)

There is another 17.2 MP camera on board. This 90mm lens is for capturing photos of minerals.

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

Are you sure?

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/rover/eyesandother/

This lists the hazard cameras and navigational cameras. It then lists the descent camera (not discussed in this article, but based on the same sensor), and then the three cameras covered here. All the main imaging cameras are 1600 x 1200 pixels.

Comment edited 29 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
MichaelEchos
By MichaelEchos (Aug 9, 2012)

I read it wrongly. It is 17 2 MP cameras. Not 17.2 MP cameras.

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 8, 2012)

The colours certainly look very much like those bars...

.

1 upvote
dara2
By dara2 (Aug 8, 2012)

it has been penny calibrated, what would you expect? :)

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 8, 2012)

Mars Bars... :)

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/marsbar.jpg

.

1 upvote
Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (Aug 8, 2012)

Abe "Friggen" Lincoln on MARS!!!! It doesn't get better than that! And to think only last month he was a Vampire slayer! I am rather sad that unlike the Viking landers from 1976, which had US flag decals on them that could be seen in the photos, this lander apparently is generic, sans nationality. Don't think the Russians or Chinese would do that if this was their Billion dollar hardware.

"Four score and 92 million miles ago, our forefathers forgot their patriotism..."

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

I sing the national anthem to put my children to sleep. In fact its the only song I know.

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

Ya know, today many express serious regrets that the early Voyager probes gave directions to Earth and diagrams of male and female anatomy. If an experienced, obviously more advanced space-faring species comes across it, should we have given our home address? Probably not. Maybe without a flag plastered over every scare inch of Curiosity, a space-faring species that encounters it will head for China.

1 upvote
shigzeo ?
By shigzeo ? (Aug 8, 2012)

Mars looks pretty built up from what I can see. Can't imagine there are any 'life on mars' naysayers left. Amazing.

2 upvotes
MarkSA
By MarkSA (Aug 8, 2012)

Mmmm. Dinosaur skeletons lying just all over the place, just like in Pitch Black!

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Answer to all your questions about life on Mars here: http://youtu.be/n1fcpCrRJ34

0 upvotes
Turbguy1
By Turbguy1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Strange that this article does not mention the STEREO capabilities of these cameras. I wonder if they shift the camera to produce a stereo pair, or capture two images simultaneously. Anyone know?

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 8, 2012)

They mention that the two cameras can be used to take a stereo pair, but the different focal lengths cause problems, so they're playing-down that capability.

MAHLI can be used to create stereo images by moving the arm it's mounted on to different locations.

3 upvotes
Thorbard
By Thorbard (Aug 8, 2012)

The stereo abilities were, AFAIK, dependant on the zoom lens, which isn't included in the package.

1 upvote
K_Photo_Teach
By K_Photo_Teach (Aug 8, 2012)

Looks to me like we need some repeaters in orbit across the solar system to improve bandwidth!! I`d love to be seeing medium format 80 megapixel shots :D
Or semi live video footage of space craft and rovers across the solar system!

NASA should totally set up a fund for this! I`d pay into it!

2 upvotes
edu T
By edu T (Aug 8, 2012)

From the sensor makers, http://www.truesenseimaging.com/news-and-events/34-msl-landing:
"MastCam-100 [based on a 1600x1200px sensor] can detect an object about the size of 2 golf balls from a distance of 1 km."
Do these figures make any sense, even taking into account local (martian air to glass) refractive indexes and whatnot?
Could they be relying on some kind of mechanical oversampling, namely by shifting the sensor by a fraction of the pixel pitch and then re-shooting?
Or is it 2019 Esper tech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkcU0gwZUdg) came true in 2012?

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
ExposureMeter
By ExposureMeter (Aug 8, 2012)

Didn't think they played golf on Mars.

1 upvote
Biowizard
By Biowizard (Aug 8, 2012)

That simply depends on the focal length of the lens, which you don't mention ...

Brian

0 upvotes
edu T
By edu T (Aug 8, 2012)

@ Biowizard: Right, it's a 100 mm lens / 300 mm eq. The sensor is the 1" KAI-2020, whose diagonal is 14,8 mm. Thus crop factor=2.92. (http://www.truesenseimaging.com/products/interline-transfer-ccd/31-KAI-2020)

0 upvotes
balchinian
By balchinian (Aug 8, 2012)

Hi Mr. Coin Dealer. My name is Ernie Squidmore, and I'm a NASA Engineer. I would like to buy 2 of your most expensive pennies so we can send it all the way to Mars. Why? Just gimme the damn pennies or I'll write equations on your forehead!

0 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

LOL, just change "forehead" at the end by "facebook wall" and you are done!

0 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

There's no stopping progress !

0 upvotes
Marcelo Meira
By Marcelo Meira (Aug 8, 2012)

It's great to see science at this level relying so much on photography. Anyway, they should've adapted a nice D4 to that rover too.

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Or a Nokia 808 PureView as this item fanguys claim it's a "real camera" that, moreover, can send emails ! Guess who's sending you a message from Mars ?

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

Do you realize that Mars is a fairly high radiation environment, that the communications budget is very limited and that the processing power is very limited? With those 2MP sensors, they will still send back a lot of images as jpeg only! Raw "costs" too much.

0 upvotes
emii
By emii (Aug 8, 2012)

Looks like they can't level a horizon properly.

0 upvotes
garyknrd
By garyknrd (Aug 8, 2012)

Wow, what is the name of that martian bird in the first pic.

5 upvotes
Skipper494
By Skipper494 (Aug 8, 2012)

That's definitely an oozling bird, flies backwards to keep the sand out of its eyes. Very common on Mars.

7 upvotes
Richie Beans
By Richie Beans (Aug 8, 2012)

For you pixel peepers..... save yourselves 2.5 billion dollars! If you want 24Mpx, hi-res images of dirt, take your fancy-ass cameras to Nevada, shoot, and PP with a mud filter. Voila!

Kudos to NASA for proper design!

0 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

Right ! Save yourself some hard-earned-money and just go with your brand new D800E to the Area51, there is a new movie in the shooting. For the former one: http://youtu.be/yo5w0pm24ic

0 upvotes
KoKo the Talking Ape
By KoKo the Talking Ape (Aug 8, 2012)

The ultimate travel camera. Not set up for fast-moving subjects though. Is that overly pessimistic?

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

It's true that if we are supposed to go to Mars to look for any form of life, if only a lizard crawling on the floor next to the rover, it's not in the bag.

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

As an aside, if that's an uncirculated penny minted in San Fransisco, it's worth over $4,000. Assume there's two calibration targets for the two cameras, means two coins.

Considering they are the first ever and only two coins in existence on another planet, the pair together would more likely be priceless.

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

I believe the Mastcams use different calibration targets, but I can't find a picture of them.

1 upvote
anthony mazzeri
By anthony mazzeri (Aug 8, 2012)

Apologies, I misread the caption. So the calibration target for the single MAHLI and so just the one penny then. Definitely worth a mint in that case as the rarest coin in the universe as the only one ever on another planet.

1 upvote
Mal_In_Oz
By Mal_In_Oz (Aug 8, 2012)

Anthony, its yours to claim. You just need to collect it...

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

It now belongs to the Martian people as part of their history.

I imagine it will be put on display in some far flung future Martian institute or museum one day, probably complete with the rover vehicle itself.

0 upvotes
jalywol
By jalywol (Aug 8, 2012)

There's no "S" under the date, so it is not the famous "S-VDB" 1909 penny which is the only one of that year worth much. A regular 1909 penny in circulated condition is worth a couple of dollars, and that's what it looks like they are using.

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

I suppose it's a collectible in its own unique right now anyway as THE penny, no other like it before or since, the first coin on another planet.

Could the mint workers who struck this coin way back in 1909 just six years after the Wright Brothers first flight ever imagine it would eventually end up on Mars?

1 upvote
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

The truth is that at first the item used for the calibration was an old Tracy Lords' picture that the project director hold as a mascot in his wallet. But ultimely the photographs disappeared mysteriously and there was nothing else at hand than a penny to fullfill the urging needs of the mssion.

Well, how little a penny is, it can always be useful as it seems.

0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

R Butler's very helpful link disappeared. So I'm re-posting it.

http://www.truesenseimaging.com/news-and-events/34-msl-landing

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

Sorry, I wanted to de-snark my comment.

1 upvote
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 8, 2012)

Long live Curiosity! Happy travels up there!

Comment edited 16 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Henry Falkner
By Henry Falkner (Aug 8, 2012)

Some thoughts on the use of a physically large 2 MP sensor - Mars is more than twice as far from the sun as the earth is, so it gets less than 1/4 of the light. The 16 MP BSI CMOS sensor and the processor in my P&S camera do create artifacts, which reduces the effective resolution as well as the reliability of the information content. The failure rate of new consumer cameras has been quoted as 2 to 4% - clearly not acceptable when you cannot exchange the camera once it leaves the ground. They use prime lenses of different focal lengths, which reduces the need for cropping. The lead time for curiosity was a number of years, not six months.

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

Good point about less light.

I had to look the distance up - it's actually 1.52 times as far. So Mars is the APSC to Earth's full frame. ;)

7 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Aug 8, 2012)

LOL

0 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Aug 8, 2012)

anthony mazzeri,

You sir, must earn a Nobel prize for making such an observation.

1 upvote
p5freak
By p5freak (Aug 8, 2012)

So, there is less light on Mars, and they use f8, f9.8 and f11 lenses, makes sense.

0 upvotes
dara2
By dara2 (Aug 8, 2012)

p5freak: I suppose rocks don't move that fast on Mars. They can hold the shutter longer.

Comment edited 38 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Ken Phillips
By Ken Phillips (Aug 8, 2012)

There may be less light reaching Mars, but there is much less atmosphere, as well. (A sandstorm will negate that advantage, of course!)

0 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Aug 8, 2012)

Don't panic, they took a good tripod along, a very expensive one!

0 upvotes
fmian
By fmian (Aug 8, 2012)

Great to see the tech that is being used on Mars.
Shows what they have to take into account to make all this work. Where corners can be cut to meet other demands.
I especially like the calibration card with the penny on it :) LOL.

4 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Aug 8, 2012)

I wish they used a masonic token instead the standard Lincoln's penny, just like this one: http://i.ebayimg.com/t/1964-MASONIC-LINCOLN-CENT-FREE-USA-SHIPPING-COMPASS-SQUARE-BU-RED-/00/s/MTQ5M1gxNjAw/$%28KGrHqJ,!ooE+1sfw5JiBQ!fDfJ2H!~~60_57.JPG

It would have been something, on every forums ! As the word NASA is still thought by some to be in fact a hebrew words (cf: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Glossary/Word_of_the_Week/Archived/Nasa/nasa.html ) compared to that the mystery of the why-only-2mp-sensor would be next to nothing.

0 upvotes
thisisjh
By thisisjh (Aug 8, 2012)

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=4025122

It says...

The camera need to withstand solar radiation- the cameras we flew (and are still onboard) the space station crapped out after about 2 years- ionizing radiation causes 'latching', resulting in the steady accumulation of hot pixels.

I couldn't find clear evidence of who made the CCDs, possibly Kodak. In any case, it's most likely a rad-hardened CCD chip, which is also why it's not a (high end) consumer grade chip.

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

thisisjh,

Thanks for the link.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Rob
By Rob (Aug 8, 2012)

The 2.5 BILLION dollar project uses cameras sporting a whole 2 megapixes? Oh, the image is murky because the camera's removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover's terminal descent. I guess they didn't take into account Mars might have some dust. That's 2,500 million dollars. Dang, if that Nikon 800 didn't have that focus issue....

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 8, 2012)

The dust cover is there precisely because they did take the dust into account.

16 upvotes
RadPhoto
By RadPhoto (Aug 8, 2012)

Rob, I can't stand people like you. Do you think you're smarter than NASA's engineers? I am sure you're sooo stupid that even a donkey is smarter than you. Now, go back to your cave...

7 upvotes
K_Photo_Teach
By K_Photo_Teach (Aug 8, 2012)

Another solar powered mars probe loses power when the dust gets on the solar panels. It can take a while for the wind to clear it - see wiki "clearing events".

Wouldnt it make sense to mount some air jets to clear the lenses and things like that? I`m sure NASA thought of it though.

But you have got to be disappointed with 2 megapixel resolution after going so far!

1 upvote
AOlkhovets
By AOlkhovets (Aug 8, 2012)

Another uninformed comment. The rover does not use solar panels, but nuclear fuel. It's powered by a plutonium cell.

Comment edited 10 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
BozillaNZ
By BozillaNZ (Aug 8, 2012)

Sheesh.. Ignorance is bliss! your fancy Nikon would fail by the minute they leave the Earth atomsphere, not to mention to stand an 8 month travel IN THE SPACE and land on Mars. Horses for courses, for this course, this 2MP sensor truces your fancy ass consumer DSLR no end

3 upvotes
cactusgeorge
By cactusgeorge (Aug 8, 2012)

"Nikon 800". blah, blah, blah.
"I guess they didn't take into account Mars might have some dust"
No, all NASA engineers are imbeciles. Two of my JPL friends worked on this project. They've never heard of dust. I just e-mailed them your remark so they can be more prepared next time. Thanks for your insight, Rob.

1 upvote
K_Photo_Teach
By K_Photo_Teach (Aug 8, 2012)

jeez i never said it used solar panels I said ANOTHER one on Mars uses solar panels and used it as an example as to how they could keep the lenses clean when the caps come off

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
MichaelEchos
By MichaelEchos (Aug 8, 2012)

Dude... That camera is for macro shots. There is another 17MP camera on board.

0 upvotes
Midnighter
By Midnighter (Aug 8, 2012)

Give them a break will you? The first test images they sent back were 64x64 pixels. They got really excited when it sent back the first high resolution pic... 256x256 pixels.

2 upvotes
John McCormack
By John McCormack (Aug 8, 2012)

Hey, is that the HOLLYWOOD sign I see in the background? Dang. I knew there weren't no rockets on Marz.

1 upvote
LuisGui
By LuisGui (Aug 8, 2012)

I don't dare to underestimate the intelligence and resources of the NASA scientists and engineers.

3 upvotes
balchinian
By balchinian (Aug 8, 2012)

I am amazed at the arrogance and high self-esteem of the most worthless people. Somebody really should bother to remind them they've never landed anything anywhere, let alone Mars.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

The less some people actually bother to learn or look up even, the more they foam at the mouth :)

0 upvotes
eyeshutter
By eyeshutter (Aug 8, 2012)

Rover has Face Detection. Damn you Nasa... Tell us the truth!

8 upvotes
K_Photo_Teach
By K_Photo_Teach (Aug 8, 2012)

They don`t need any fancy remote sensing cameras or x-ray spectrometers to search for life.....only a p&s with face detection

:D

2 upvotes
tomes
By tomes (Aug 8, 2012)

If I knew NASA was this broke, I would have donated my nex 5n. It's even full spectrum modified...

3 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (Aug 8, 2012)

what, no instagram mode?

4 upvotes
Kris Sky
By Kris Sky (Aug 8, 2012)

It has retro mode because of the time difference..

0 upvotes
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (Aug 8, 2012)

No Facebook either!

0 upvotes
semorg
By semorg (Aug 8, 2012)

Can they just ask Sony to build them a nice sensor, or just grab an RX-100 from B&H :)

3 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Only US companies with connections in Washington (read, lobbyists) can obtain government contracts. Hence, Kodak got it, and it was transferred to its receiving entity.
I guess this 2 mpix sensor costs like million Sony 20mpix.

Year, living in DC and having many friends on federal contracts makes me think that.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Nightwings
By Nightwings (Aug 8, 2012)

TWO...... megapixels? .......... ok.

Only reason why I think this is.... would be the bandwidth required to transmit higher (Larger files) resolution images??

Can anyone else speculate why they mounted a 1999 era sensor on a multi-billion dollar probe?

Another possibility is to render images with the least amount of noise possible so as not to contaminate the images when specific filters are used.......

Ok.... That's my two guesses.

1 upvote
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Aug 8, 2012)

What I read is that the camera is optimized to inspect objects close to or picked up by the rover. At that scale, two megapixels is all you need. Also, bandwidth: Bit rates are VERY slow. Pics must be no bigger than necessary, to leave room for science data transmission. And they can stitch.

The rover cams are not optimized to make pretty HDRs that are ready to sell as huge canvas prints on 500px. But once they get the high-quality camera mast up, and the high-gain antenna pointed at the orbiting relay, we'll get better images.

By the way, the processor on board is a 200MHz PowerPC G3 (think 1999 Apple PowerBook). Part of the reason for all this "old" tech is that it's tried and true, and hardened for environment, radiation, weight, power, etc.

Your fancy Canikon with over 9000 megapixels and automatic face recognition very likely does not meet the temperature, atmospheric pressure, radiation, power, and other requirements of the hardware they have put on the Rover.

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

NASA has to take a lot of things into account that most of us probably wouldn't even think of when it picks what equipment to use. In addition to being able to withstand extreme conditions (temperature, dust, radiation, being on another planet, etc.), the equipment must be time-tested and as bug-free or defect-free as possible. After all, it's pretty difficult to send a firmware update 115,000,000 miles if a bug turns up :) They want something up there that they KNOW will work. Hence why they go with older, established tech that has a proven track record.

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

MAHLI is for close-up work, the two Mastcams focus from 2.1m out to infinity. They're set up to be able to capture both visible and NIR light.

3 upvotes
love_them_all
By love_them_all (Aug 8, 2012)

If bandwidth is an issue they can always take several shots and then put them together when the signal reaches earth. I suppose the scientists are more interested in other forms of data not just visual images (that the general public cares about most).

0 upvotes
attomole
By attomole (Aug 8, 2012)

Signal to noise, the Sun is the size of a pea in the sky, not much light, Control bandwidth, if you want high res take more than one photograph and join them together, send back the information you need no more, every byte costs precious power and mission time to send.

These are proper engineering solutions, there will be other factors, spectral response, the Ir and UV spectrum give you more information on the structure of matter so it has to have fidelity beyond what we see.
The device has to survive physical challenges launch, huge swings in temperature, radiation and landing (11G i remember being quoted in the webcast in the landing phase), and has to be a device which is available to test when the spaceship is being designed, which take many years. you don't just bolt the latest Nikon to it on launch day and hope for the best.

2 upvotes
edu T
By edu T (Aug 8, 2012)

"TWO...... megapixels? .......... ok."
Yup, in fact 2 Mp leaves a lot to desire when it comes to capture foliage detail and cloud texture!

1 upvote
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

Attomole,

Good to hear some intelligent commentary!

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Nightwings
By Nightwings (Aug 8, 2012)

@edu T

"Yup, in fact 2 Mp leaves a lot to desire when it comes to capture foliage detail and cloud texture!"

Or possibly fosilized rocks .... hey ... ya just never know. :)

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 8, 2012)

The whole Mars landing is quite an amazing triumph considering it takes at least 6 minutes for any command on Earth to be confirmed. (3 minutes send, 3 minutes echo).

Just like in the Apollo missions, future landers will carry much better equipment.

NASA will eventually be infected with camera upgrade fever.

.

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

The correct value for the transmission time (time from when it is sent to when it is received is) 11-13 minutes depending on the (min or max distance between Mars & Earth), according to the NASA webpage:

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/world_mars.html

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
1 upvote
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 8, 2012)

6 minutes is correct.

11 minutes is also correct.

Apogee Perigee difference.

.

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 8, 2012)

Not sure if this article is accurate, but a scientist claims it took 45 minutes during his time!

http://www.vagazette.com/news/va-vg-mars-landing-0804-20120808,0,4383775.story

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

Radio waves travel at lightspeed, so the 45 minutes does not make sense. Most likely the reporter got it screwed up (as usual).

http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/universe/duguide/app_light_travel_time_dista.php

Look at Table A-2 which says:

Mars is 12.7 light minutes away. This is where the 13 minute delay I got from the NASA boadcast during the landing. But that's probably right now, which may be a sort of average distance (in between the shortest and longest perhaps).

This link shows that you are correct:

http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae381.cfm

The time varies between 4.3 and 21 minutes, and the 45 minutes then is pretty close to the round trip of 21 minutes each way. Voila mystery solved!

Thanks, CameraLab Tester!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
cpkuntz
By cpkuntz (Aug 7, 2012)

Why do they use 2 mp sensors? Robust build? The Apollo mission used Hasselblads. Why not get some medium format goodness on board one of these rovers?

2 upvotes
eurycea
By eurycea (Aug 8, 2012)

Yeah Hasselblads....nice one

0 upvotes
dougeryb
By dougeryb (Aug 8, 2012)

I'm not an engineer but these probes/rovers power is limited and refined to get every last bit of power for longevity. The energy consumption to send thousands of 20mp signal from mars to earth would probably be quite taxing on the power supply. 2mp probably gives them the needed resolution and optimum power savings.

1 upvote
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Aug 8, 2012)

They used Hasselblad on the moon because to bring the pics back to Earth, all NASA had to do was tell the astronauts to bring the film with them.

Curiosity is not coming back.

So what do you do? First you go digital of course, but then how do you get the images back to Earth? By the worst form of wi-fi you can imagine.

If you actually put a digital back on a Hasselblad, based on the data rates between Mars and Earth, you could wait days to weeks for a single image. There is no point. Or, you could think about the fact that if you did use up all available bandwidth for simple (albeit detailed) images, you are locking out science data transmission for the same amount of time.

Not to mention that the scientific orientation of the mission means that sometimes, visible light frequencies are NOT the priority. This isn't Ansel Adams on a romantic camping trip to the wilderness to make Art. This is about science on a budget. They cut the budget of Curiosity, by the way.

9 upvotes
gillamoto
By gillamoto (Aug 8, 2012)

Apollo used Hasselblad cam? it didn't. but the astronauts did. it was Hasselblad film camera. so they just need to take home the developed film and the processing be done on earth.

it's a different case now with Curious. it is a robot, equipped with digital cameras. it needs to transfer the image wirelessly via satelite to earth station and it needs time. so bigger MP means longer transfer time.

if Curious uses Hasselblad 60MP cam, then I bet it will take a month just to transfer one image :)

0 upvotes
VincentR
By VincentR (Aug 8, 2012)

I can understand that the distance between Mars and the Earth is so great that a transmission takes 3 minutes to arrive, but once the first signal has arrived, all subsequent signals from the same transmission should follow almost instantaneously, or at least at the same rate that the signals are being broadcast from Mars.

I'm sure the problem can't be that it would take too long to transmit a high-resolution image. I imagine the transmitter on Curiosity would be transmitting data continuously whenever it's in line with the receiving station in Australia.

Perhaps the problem is that the amount of time when it's possible to transmit data to Australia is fairly limited, due to the revolving nature of the planets, so a choice has to be made between the amount of scientific data, as opposed to image-quality data, that will be transmitted. The scientific data takes priority of course.

0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

First of all:

The correct value for the transmission time (time from when it is sent to when it is received is) 11-13 minutes depending on the (min or max distance between Mars & Earth), according to the NASA webpage:

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/world_mars.html

Some of your reasoning, or perhaps your explanation is a bit off I'm afraid. No matter whether transmission is continuous or not (it isn't!), the greater the amount of information, the longer it takes to transmit. Period.
However you are almost certainly correct about priority of non photo image data over photo image data.

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

The problem is not because of latency, bandwidth is not affected by latency, at least in one direction transfer. The problem is solely on the frig*ging power required to transmit the signal THIS FAR. You know, the electromagnetic signal is like light signal, they fade as square function of distance. So here you go, how much power do you need to establish a gigabit link between Earth and Mars? Probably more than they can get by solar power at that place.

2 upvotes
forsakenbliss
By forsakenbliss (Aug 8, 2012)

higher transmission rate also requires much higher power.

0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Aug 8, 2012)

Correction to my post:

At the time of the landing I heard or read 13 minutes (one way), so that is probably for the distance during the landing.. Just now I learned it varies between 4.3 and 21 minutes depending on the min or max Earth to Mars distance.

http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae381.cfm

1 upvote
WillemB
By WillemB (Aug 8, 2012)

Because of the extreme low S/N, data transmission will be very slow; the receiver bandwidth on earth might easily be less than one Hertz...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
VincentR
By VincentR (Aug 8, 2012)

Check out this site for information on data transmission.

Curiosity doesn't have to transmit data directly to Earth, which I admit would be slow and power-consuming. It can transmit as much as 60 megabits in an 8 minute period to one of the existing satellites or orbiters in the vicinity of Mars.

For example, the Odyssey satellite has a line of sight to Earth for about 16 hours a day. If Curiosity were to send signals directly to Earth, it would be limited to 3 hours a day, due to power limitations.

http://gcn.com/articles/2012/08/06/mars-curiosity-nasa-deep-space-network.aspx

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Aug 8, 2012)

Don't they transmit through an orbiter? Not to mention than Curiosity has a nuclear reactor onboard.

1 upvote
Bruno2005
By Bruno2005 (Aug 8, 2012)

I read somewhere here http://www.msss.com/space-cameras/ that 1 minute movie (7fps) needs an entire week in order to be transmitted to Earth.

0 upvotes
cpkuntz
By cpkuntz (Aug 8, 2012)

Thanks for the logical explanations. Of course the bandwidth is quite low; I just read the article, noticed 2mp, and was really surprised without really thinking about why. Notice my original post was an honest question, not a complaint.

0 upvotes
Scott55
By Scott55 (Aug 8, 2012)

so many people are failing to realize that these images are coming from a set of camera that just happen it have 2mp sensors. Some cameras are for assessing navigational route options - where higher resolutions isn't needed. I'm willing to be they have other, higher MP cameras too.

0 upvotes
tralalax
By tralalax (Aug 7, 2012)

is this new system for NASA? not Nikon?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 282
12