NASA’s Curiosity Beams Back a Color 360 of Gale Crater
This is a portion of the first color 360-degree panorama from NASA’s Curiosity rover, made up of thumbnails from small copies of hi-resolution images. Image credit: NASA/JPL.
The first images from Curiosity’s color Mast Camera, or Mastcam, have been received by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The 130 low-resolution thumbnails, which were received Thursday morning, provide scientists and engineers of NASA’s newest Mars rover their first color, horizon-to-horizon glimpse of Gale Crater with Mt Sharp on the horizon.
“After a year in cold storage, where it endured the rigors of launch, the deep space cruise to Mars and everything that went on during landing, it is great to see our camera is working as planned,” said Mike Malin, principal investigator of the Mastcam instrument from Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. “As engaging as this color panorama is, it is important to note this is only one-eighth the potential resolution of images from this camera.”
The Curiosity team also continued to downlink high-resolution black-and-white images from its Navigation Camera, or Navcam. These individual images have been stitched together to provide a high-resolution Navcam panorama, including a glimpse of the rover’s deck. Evident on some portions of the deck are some small Martian pebbles.
“The latest Navcam images show us that the rocket engines on our descent stage kicked up some material from the surface of Mars, several pieces which ended up on our rover’s deck,” said Mike Watkins, mission manager for Curiosity from JPL. “These small pebbles we currently see are up to about 1 centimeter [0.4 inch] in size and should pose no problems for mission operations. It will be interesting to see how long our hitchhikers stick around.”
Mission engineers devoted part of their third Martian day, or “Sol 3,” to checking the status of four of Curiosity’s science instruments after their long trip. The rover’s Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Chemistry and Mineralogy analyzer, Sample Analysis at Mars, and Dynamic of Albedo Neutrons instruments were each energized and went through a preliminary checkout. The team also performed a check on the rover’s second flight computer.
Crisp View from Inside Gale Crater – This cut-out from a color panorama image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Even before landing, the mission’s science team began the process of creating a geological map of about 150 square miles (about 390 square kilometers) within Gale Crater that includes the landing area.
“It is important to understand the geological context around Curiosity,” said Dawn Sumner of the University of California, Davis, a member of the Curiosity science team. “We want to choose a route to Mount Sharp that makes good progress toward the destination while allowing important science observations along the way.”
The mapping project divided the area into 151 quadrangles of about one square mile (about 2.6 square kilometers) each. Curiosity landed in the quadrangle called Yellowknife. Yellowknife is the city in northern Canada that was the starting point for many of the great geological expeditions to map the oldest rocks in North America.
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks’ elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop, which are located at the end of its robotic arm, to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover’s analytical laboratory instruments.
To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.
The Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. For more about NASA’s Curiosity mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl. Curiosity’s color panorama of Gale Crater is online at: http://1.usa.gov/P7VsUw. Additional images from Curiosity are available at: http://1.usa.gov/MfiyD0. Source: NASA
Curiosity Sends First Photos From Gale Crater
An image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide (almost 16 meter) parachute as it descended towards its landing site at Gale Crater.
“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain.”
About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA’s Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater. Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., received the image, taken by one of the vehicle’s lower-fidelity, black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras – or Hazcams.
The black-and-white, 512 by 512 pixel image, taken by Curiosity’s rear-left Hazcam, can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/msl5.html.
“Curiosity’s landing site is beginning to come into focus,” said John Grotzinger, project manager of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “In the image, we are looking to the northwest. What you see on the horizon is the rim of Gale Crater. In the foreground, you can see a gravel field. The question is, where does this gravel come from? It is the first of what will be many scientific questions to come from our new home on Mars.”
While the image is twice as big in pixel size as the first images beamed down from the rover, they are only half the size of full-resolution Hazcam images. During future mission operations, these images will be used by the mission’s navigators and rover drivers to help plan the vehicle’s next drive. Other cameras aboard Curiosity, with color capability and much higher resolution, are expected to be sent back to Earth over the next several days.
Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles (about five kilometers) tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles (nearly 155 kilometers) 7in diameter. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Source: NASA./JPL
The Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) captured the rover’s descent to the surface of the Red Planet. The instrument shot 4 fps video from heatshield separation to the ground.
The Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) captured the rover’s descent to the surface of the Red Planet. The instrument shot 4 fps video from heatshield separation to the ground.The main purpose of Curiosity’s MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover’s Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity. This means it can, as shown here, also obtain pictures of the Martian landscape. Source: message To Eagle
Latest Released Images 9 August 2012
More Amazing Images From HiRISE!
A new orbital image shows the Curiosity rover sitting on Mars’ surface, along with all the accoutrements needed to get it there safely: the heat shield, backshell, parachute, and the Sky Crane. The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image just 24 hours after MSL’s landing.
What Do We Expect To Find On Mars
There are now only a few more days before Curiosity will land on the Red Planet and as we await this moment, we explore what role chemistry plays on Mars and what we expect from the rover. The newest episode of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Bytesize Science video series highlights Curiosity Rover’s mission, scientific instrumentation and the role that chemistry plays in the search for life on other planets.
It features Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Science Manager Ashwin Vasavada, Ph.D., of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Vasavada takes viewers “under the hood” of the rover, explaining the role of the analytical chemistry instruments found on board the Curiosity. The use of analytical chemistry techniques will aid in Curiosity’s primary mission goal: to determine the habitability of the Gale Crater, which scientists believe was once filled with water.
“Curiosity is really a geochemical experiment that we are sending to Mars. A whole laboratory of chemical equipment is on this rover, primarily because the way we going to assess habitability with this rover is to drill into rocks and analyze material from these rocks in very sophisticated analytical chemical instruments, Ashwin Vasavada explains.
After an epic 354-million-mile trek through space, the Mars Curiosity Rover is zooming along at 13,000 miles per hour toward a scheduled Aug. 6 landing on the Red Planet to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Coverage will be on the web at both NASA’s and JPL websites.
This video explains several chemical processes that Curiosity is equipped to perform, including laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, mineralogy tests and X-ray spectroscopy. Test results from these instruments will pave the way for future Mars missions and may provide insight in the search for life on other planets.