The Mars Curiosity rover made a safe landing on Mars in the early hours of August 6 (I stayed up and watched the event live). I knew the complexity of the rover, and Wired provides a good overview of Curiosity’s 17 cameras on board:
First up is the Mars Decent Imager (MARDI), which recently beamed back an amazing video of the rover’s nail-biting descent. MARDI turned on during the final few minutes of the “Seven Minutes of Terror” and recorded a full-color high-definition movie as the ground rushed up to meet the rover. With this film (and the coming high-def version), you get to experience what the wild ride down to the surface looked like.
MARDI is a 2-megapixel wide-angle camera mounted toward the front on the port side of Curiosity. The camera came to life just after the spacecraft’s heat shield jettisoned, taking images of a roughly 2 by 2.5-mile square, with a resolution of about 8 feet per pixel. The final fully-in-focus images came when the rover was about 15 feet off the ground. In addition to a thrilling film, MARDI will provide scientists the opportunity to know exactly where Curiosity landed and learn a bit about the surrounding area.
Of course, a telephoto lens is also included:
One of the biggest requests that scientists had for Curiosity was the addition of a telephoto lens. The previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, could see details about as well as a person would on Mars. But MastCam’s right camera has a 100-mm focal-length lens that provides three times the resolution of previous Mars rover cameras. It can distinguish between a football and a basketball from seven football fields away. While the left camera, with its 34-mm lens, can’t see as well, it will provide much wider views – about 15 degrees versus the right camera’s five degree field-of-view.
The raw images from Curiosity are being uploaded on the JPL site.