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Image Sensors From Truesense Imaging Enable Mars Science Laboratory To Capture High Definition Images From Mars

Curiosity, scheduled to land during the early morning hours of August 6 (U.S. Eastern time), is designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support life by deploying the most advanced set of scientific instruments ever sent to the planet.  As part of that instrument suite, all four science cameras on the rover are designed using image sensors from Truesense Imaging to capture high resolution color images of the planet. 

“Time and again, image sensors from Truesense Imaging have performed under the most demanding conditions,” said Chris McNiffe, CEO of Truesense Imaging, Inc.  “Going to Mars as part of this mission is a testament to the teams who design and manufacture our image sensors, and who make this level of quality and performance available to all of our customers.”

“As with all our spaceflight cameras, these cameras for Curiosity have to take high quality images under very challenging conditions,” said Michael Ravine, Advanced Projects Manager at Malin Space Science Systems.  “Based on our past experience with Truesense Imaging CCDs—we’ve used them on eight different deep space cameras before MSL—we knew they would provide the performance and reliability we needed for a multi-year Mars surface mission. We’re looking forward to receiving the first color images of the spectacular Gale Crater landing site.”

Four different cameras on Curiosity use the KAI-2020 Image Sensor to capture high resolution images of Mars during this mission: 

  • The Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will be active during the rover’s descent, capturing hundreds of natural color images of the planet’s surface to provide an initial visual framework of the landing site for early operations. 
  • The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will capture close-up color images of Martian rocks and surface material at a resolution of up to 14.4 μm per pixel – enough to detect an object smaller than the width of a human hair. 
  • The Mast Camera (MastCam), the imaging “workhorse” of the rover, will capture high resolution color images of the terrain explored by the rover.  This system is comprised of two separate cameras that use lenses of different focal lengths, allowing detailed images to be captured of objects both near to and far from the rover.  As an example, MastCam-100 (which uses a 100 mm lens to capture images far from the rover) can detect an object about the size of 2 golf balls from a distance of 1 km.

All four of these cameras are based on the KAI-2020 Image Sensor, a 2 megapixel (1600 x 1200 pixel) Interline Transfer CCD that provides high dynamic range, low dark current, and electronic shutter with precise exposure control.  The cameras all capture images in full color at over 4 full resolution images per second, while the MastCam cameras can provide full-color 720p high definition video (1280 x 720 pixels) at 6 fps, well beyond the capabilities of the cameras used on prior missions to Mars. 

Curiosity is the second Mars rover to use image sensors from Truesense Imaging.  In 1997, KAI-0371 Image Sensors served as the “eyes” of Mars Pathfinder’s Sojourner, the first rover to explore the surface of Mars.  Today, image sensors from Truesense Imaging are used in three different orbiters around Mars, as well as orbiters around both Venus and the Moon.  In addition, a KAI-2020 Image Sensor is currently en route to Jupiter as part of the Juno mission, which will provide 3-color images of the planet from orbit when it arrives in 2016.

For additional information, please contact Truesense Imaging at (585) 784-5500 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  For information on Truesense Imaging’s full line of high performance image sensors, please visit www.truesenseimaging.com. Visit our blog at www.truesenseimaging.com/blog.

About Truesense Imaging, Inc.

Truesense Imaging, Inc. is a leading provider of high-performance image sensors serving the machine vision, traffic, surveillance, medical, photography, and scientific imaging applications. With 40 years experience in the design, development, and manufacturing of high-performance image sensors, Truesense Imaging is uniquely positioned to offer the broadest sensor portfolio with an outstanding combination of resolution, frame rates, and performance, making them ideally suited for the world’s most demanding imaging applications.