Along for the Ride
It’s been just over two weeks since NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity survived its 7 minutes of terror to land on Mars. And now that the first images are being sent back from the rover, it’s exciting to see the great image quality coming from the scientific cameras on the rover that all use KAI-2020 Image Sensors from Truesense Imaging.
During the rover’s descent to the planet, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) was busy capturing images at 4 fps. While these images have been used to pinpoint the landing location on the planet’s surface, they also provide a great video of the descent from the rover’s perspective. Want to ride shotgun on a descent through the Martian atmosphere? Here’s your chance:
This shows almost the full set of high-resolution images from the descent - there are a few that still need to be added. There's also a good short clip just showing detaching of the heat shield, and another (with annotations) showing the heat shield crashing on Mars.
The first color image sent back from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was a little harder to decipher: Since the rover’s arm hadn’t yet been extended, the image was tilted on an angle, showing the horizon in the (random) direction the camera was pointing after touchdown. But the color images from the MastCam have been great, including the first high-resolution panoramic of Curiosity’s landing site:
While there are a couple of different versions of this mosaic available, one of my favorites is a 360 panorama that puts you right on the surface along with the rover.
And this is only a small sampling – new images and videos are being posted every day, and this is before Curiosity has even left its landing site.
Very soon, Curiosity will be on her way to start exploring, aiming toward the base of Mount Sharp but probably stopping several times along the way when something “interesting” comes up. Curiosity’s main mission is to understand whether Mars ever had an environment that would support life, and right now it’s too soon to know what Curiosity will find. But it’s exciting to know that whatever Curiosity finds, we’ll all be along for the ride.