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Mars Curiosity Rover Sends Back First Image of Mount Sharp

by Sean P. Aune | August 7, 2012

Curiosity - Mount Sharp

With the Mars Curiosity Rover safely on the red planet, it’s time to get to work. Let the endless stream of images begin!

The color high definition camera on Curiosity has yet to be deployed, so, for now, we’ll have to keep looking at black and white fish eye images.  Yesterday we saw the horizon behind the car-sized rover, but today we get to see what awaits it: Mount Sharp.  Curiosity will soon begin its journey towards the hill where there are some interesting geological layers that scientists want to check out.

Also of interest is the video below that Curiosity beamed back to Earth.  While it is not true video, but instead a bunch of images done in a flip-book style, it gives you some idea of what the descent to the surface was like.  Of particular interest is the ending where you can see the dust that was kicked up by the rockets of the final stage as Curiosity was lowered to the ground.


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New Mars Rover Beams Back Images Showing Its Descent

PASADENA, Calif. – Earlier today, just hours after NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars, a select group of images taken by the onboard Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, were beamed back to Earth. The 297 color, low-resolution images, provide a glimpse of the rover’s descent into Gale Crater. They are a preview of the approximately 1,504 images of descent currently held in the rover’s onboard memory. When put together in highest resolution, the resulting video is expected to depict the rover’s descent from the moment the entry system’s heat shield is released through touchdown.

“The image sequence received so far indicates Curiosity had, as expected, a very exciting ride to the surface,” said Mike Malin, imaging scientist for the Mars Science Lab mission from Malin Space Systems in San Diego. “But as dramatic as they are, there is real other-world importance to obtaining them. These images will help the mission scientists interpret the rover’s surroundings, the rover drivers in planning for future drives across the surface, as well as assist engineers in their design of forthcoming landing systems for Mars or other worlds.”

The image of the heat shield falling away is online at: http://1.usa.gov/RSVufL.

The MARDI sequence is online at: http://1.usa.gov/MZqGxv.

The MARDI camera is located on the chassis of the Curiosity rover. Just before the heat shield fell away, MARDI began its imaging task. The images selected for early downlink to Earth were taken at different points in Curiosity’s final descent toward the surface. One of the earliest images shows the entry vehicle’s heat shield 50 feet (15 meters) and falling away after separating from the vehicle three seconds before. A set of images demonstrates some of the gyrations Curiosity went through while on the parachute. Another remarkable set of images depicts the final moments leading up to landing, where the exhaust from four of the descent stage’s 742 pounds of thrust rockets billow up dust from the Martian surface.

“A good comparison is to that grainy onboard film from Apollo 11 when they were about to land on the moon,” said Malin.

Those MARDI images downlinked so far are low-resolution thumbnails, 192 by 144 pixels. In the months ahead, as communications between rover and Earth become more robust, full-frame images 1,600 by 1,200 pixels in size, are expected to provide the most complete and dramatic imagery of a planetary landing in the history of exploration.

The mission also released a higher-resolution Hazcam image of their target, the mountain in the middle of Gale Crater informally titled Mount Sharp.

The new image, taken by Curiosity’s black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras – or Hazcams – can be found at:http://1.usa.gov/OLB3B5.

Curiosity, NASA’s latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (05:32 on Aug. 6, EDT) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles in diameter.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, provided MARDI, as well as three other cameras on Curiosity.

For more information on the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity andhttp://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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