Rover’s camera and a lovely panorama from Mars

Over at ExtremeTetch.com, there’s a nice article on “Why does the $2.5 billion dollar Curiosity use a 2-megapixel camera?” The sensor in a high-ish end digital camera, in contrast, has a sensor ranging 10 to 40 megapixels.  Why the skimping? The short article gives four reasons, one of which is simple: that’s the sensor that was available when they first started designing the Curiosity in 2004 (the rover has four cameras).  But there are other, technical reasons that you can read about in the article.

Here’s one of the cameras, from dpreview.com, where you can read pretty much the same info about the sensor but also seem some photos from the rover.

More interesting, to me at least, is an interactive moving panoramic view of Mars at the bottom of the article that you must not miss.  It gives a 360-degree view around the last Rover, described like this (you can see the panorama on full screen here or simply click on the full-screen icon in the small photo):

For reference, you can check out this panorama of 817 stitched images taken by the Opportunity rover from December 2011 to May 2012. The shots were taken on Greeley Haven, on the western edge of Mars’ Endeavor Crater.

You can zoom in and out, speed up or slow down the images (use the “hand” icon), and get a feeling of what it’s really like to stand on Mars during the day. Here’s a screenshot, but remember to click the link above, and go to the bottom, to see the real panorama:

h/t: Michael

17 Comments

  1. Posted August 10, 2012 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Now, there’s a livestream that — dare I say it? — could rival baby kittehs!

  2. gbjames
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    That zoomable image is awesome!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Yes!

  3. TJR
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    “What are you doing at the moment?”

    “Oh, nothing, just looking out at the surface of Mars.”

    Three cheers for NASA, and more belatedly for CERN too.

    Still, I’m sure the catholic church is working on its expedition to venus and that iranian mullahs will soon announce their discovery of a new subatomic particle.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Yes. I heard they are searching for the particle that mediates sexuality. Various factions have suggested names such as “The Gay Particle,” “The Virgin Particle,” “The Pandora Particle,” “The Jezebel Particle” and several others.

  4. Lyndon
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Ah! This planet sucks! Just a barren wasteland. Next!

    Seriously, the pictures are cool.

  5. Posted August 10, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Note how dusty the Opportunity solar panels are in the panoramic. Curiosity has none & relies on a nuclear power plant instead that can generate around 110 Watts of electricity continuously. This will power [& keep warm] the vehicle, instrumentation & experiments night & day for at least 14 years.

    Random thoughts:

    The U.S. is planning a peopled mission to Mars for the 2030’s though I expect it will be cut. Seems like a silly thing to do given that our robots are getting smarter every year. I reckon we should concentrate our Mars resources on robots that can explore & build facilities underground for human settlers. Mars has no magnetic field & the atmosphere is slight hence there’s little protection from cosmic/solar radiation. We could perhaps move an asteroid into a Mars orbit & colonise the inside of that first [spinning it up to give people ‘gravity’]. From there we could manage the Mars robot construction/exploration teams below to get around the 3 to 22 minute one-way Earth-Mars signal delay.

    • JT
      Posted August 10, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Would it be possible to terraform Mars? Or is that just science-fiction?

      • Posted August 10, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        The below is harvested from various Wiki articles so the below is [I hope] smarter than I am 🙂

        It’s possible. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a series of good SF books about this

        I think it would be a terrible thing to do ~ Mars is a closed history book & we should try to read it first ~ that could keep us busy for many generations. Also what if there’s Martian life deep underground? We could unwittingly destroy an alien biosphere.

        Even if we ‘grew’ an atmosphere it would remain a very dry atmosphere because of the lack of a magnetosphere [I’m not certain about this] & it would need to be replenished somehow at a quicker rate than Earths

        It’s unknown whether Martian gravity [0.38g] can support human life in the long term. The Mars Gravity Biosatellite experiment was due to become the first experiment testing the effects of partial gravity on mammal life, but in 2009 the project was cancelled due to lack of funds.

        An orbital colony around Mars is the rational approach ~ allowing us to explore the surface of Mars in real time using telepresence, for less cost and more science return. An orbital colony can make use of In Situ Resource Utilization of, for instance, Deimos which as a D-type asteroid is likely to contain plenty of water and other essentials for human occupied habitats.

      • Posted August 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Oh, heavens! Don’t trigger another tedious argument between Gary and Ben! 😉

        /@

      • gravelinspector
        Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

        It’s not impossible. But it would be extremely difficult, time consuming, and I would posit, pointless.
        Take for example, the issue of putting water and atmosphere there : that’ll require multiple comets to be delivered to the planet surface. but if you dump them onto the surface in short succession, you’ll start blasting off the atmosphere you delivered with the early comets, using the later comets.
        Leave it a century or so between touchdowns. And you’re now looking at a multiple millennium project, just to deliver water and atmosphere. Adjusting the atmosphere and hydrosphere to something like the chemistry we desire (say, partial pressure of oxygen > 0.13 bar ; humans suffer badly at lower PP(O2)) is going to take longer.
        A minimum time scale of 10,000years is probably wildly optimistic.
        Meanwhile, are we going to be sitting on our communal thumbs on Earth? Of course not – at the very least, we’ve got tens of comets to find and manoeuvre to the planet’s surface. That’s going to mean multiple-year expeditions out into the Kuiper-Edgeworth belt, at the flat minimum. So, for the first stage of terraforming, we need to learn how to live in space for years at a time. (Incidentally, for “free” we survey the solar system in detail and learn how to point “dinosaur killer” type impactors away from Earth, at some other planet).
        Several millennia after that … when Mars is “ready,” the population of the Asteroid belt, Jovian Moons etc will probably approach that of Earth (a couple of billion, tops). And we’d probably have started to launch generation ships across the Galaxy.
        I’m a SF fan. And a geologist. I don’t believe we’d ever waste our time on terraforming anything ; building ships or hollowing out rocks would be easier and cheaper.
        Evolutionary consequences (to veer back towards topic) ? : changes to inner ear and much changed reflexes due to greater Coriolis effects inside a habitat.
        YMMV.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 11, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

          The alternative, of course, would be to take care of the one place that already is habitable. But for some reason that idea is hard for many people to accept.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted August 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            Not disagreed that that is already necessary – and un-done.
            However we also know that “dinosaur killer” impactors do arrive from time to time. So we need the means to control them,or to mitigate their rendering of Earth uninhabitable. And the simplest way to achieve that, on a less-than a millennium time scale, is to be in several places simultaneously.
            I also happen to think that the technology and ecological understanding that will be necessary for building self-sustaining space habitats will teach us a lot about what we’re doing wrong on Earth too. But that’s a minor side benefit.
            Not that I really think it’s going to happen ; I don’t have enough confidence in human beings and their long-sighted political structures.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted August 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            Not disagreed that that is already necessary – and un-done.
            However we also know that “dinosaur killer” impactors do arrive from time to time. So we need the means to control them,or to mitigate their rendering of Earth uninhabitable. And the simplest way to achieve that, on a less-than a millennium time scale, is to be in several places simultaneously.
            I also happen to think that the technology and ecological understanding that will be necessary for building self-sustaining space habitats will teach us a lot about what we’re doing wrong on Earth too. But that’s a minor side benefit.
            Not that I really think it’s going to happen ; I don’t have enough confidence in human beings and their long-sighted political structures.

  6. FastLane
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Somebody needs to make that panorama view into a screensaver…STAT!

  7. Sai
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Full res image can be downloaded at this link :

    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA15689

  8. Mary - Canada
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Here I am, a tiny dot on the surface of the Earth, viewing images of the Mars landscape. Breathtaking!


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