Mike Malin, NASA: Mars Curiosity Rover Beams Back Images Showing Its Descent
August 7, 2012
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."
color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its
descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was
obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows
the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet
(16 meters) from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half
minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three
seconds after heat shield separation. It is among the first color images
Curiosity sent back from Mars. The resolution of all of the MARDI frames
is reduced by a factor of eight in order for them to be promptly
received on Earth during this early phase of the mission. Full
resolution (1,600 by 1,200 pixel) images will be returned to Earth over
the next several months as Curiosity begins its scientific exploration
This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA's Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. These thumbnail images were received on Earth on Aug. 6, 2012, and cover the last two and a half minutes of descent.
"A good comparison is
to that grainy onboard film from Apollo 11 when they were about to land
on the moon," said Malin.
This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). This image from Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager reveals surface features including relatively dark dunes, degraded impact craters and other geologic features including small escarpments that range in size from a few feet (meters) to many tens of feet (meters) in height. The image was obtained one minute 16 seconds before touchdown. This is but one of hundreds of frames that were acquired during the descent to the surface.
The new image, taken by Curiosity's
black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras - or Hazcams - can be found at:
This image taken by NASA's Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the highest peak Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change. This image was captured by the rover's front left Hazard-Avoidance camera at full resolution shortly after it landed. It has been linearized to remove the distorted appearance that results from its fisheye lens.
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.
is the full-resolution version of one of the first images taken by a
rear Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on
Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). The image was
originally taken through the "fisheye" wide-angle lens, but has been "linearized"
so that the horizon looks flat rather than curved. The image has also
been cropped. A Hazard-avoidance camera on the rear-left side of
Curiosity obtained this image.