Friday, August 10, 2012
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has captured a magnificent postcard from the Red Planet — a 360-degree color view that offers a glimpse of the rover’s colorful and apparently diverse surroundings.
Curiosity, which is also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, successfully touched down on Mars on Sunday (Aug. 5 PDT), and has already snapped a flurry of photos, including sweeping black-and-white and color images of the Martian landscape and a self-portrait. In a news briefing today (Aug. 9), NASA released images and video of Curiosity’s first color panorama view, a mosaic taken on the rover’s third full day on Mars, which mission managers refer to as Sol 3.
The panoramic view shows Curiosity’s own shadow reflected onto the Martian surface, with a dark band of dunes in the distance, and the rim of Gale Crater beyond that. Nearby on the left and right, gray patches where the spacecraft’s rocket-powered sky crane blasted the ground can be clearly seen. The sky crane helped slow Curiosity’s speed as it flew through the Martian atmosphere to the planet’s surface.
The impact of the rocket plumes kicked up material from the surface, leaving these gaping scars that scientists are now eager to investigate.
“There’s been a lot of discussion and an awful lot of eagerness to know what the composition of the rocks are, and to use our laser,” said Dawn Sumner, a Mars Science Laboratory scientist and a geology professor at the University of California, Davis.
The color panorama was stitched together using 130 images that are 144 by 144 pixels each. A selected number of full frame versions from the panorama are expected to be relayed back to Earth at a later date, said Michael Malin, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego and principal investigator of Curiosity’s imaging system, called Mastcam.
The panoramic view also showcases Mars’ true colors, albeit slightly brighter.
“They’re what the camera sent back, I just brightened them up,” Malin said. “That’s what the bare filter gets you when you look at Mars.”
Mission controllers are now preparing for a roughly 4-day procedure to update Curiosity with new software from the ground. This transition is expected to begin on Saturday (Aug. 11), and will switch the rover’s focus from landing to its new life of operating on the Martian surface, NASA officials said.
Full article: http://www.space.com … norama-pictures.html