How NASA’s Curiosity Rover Will Shoot Photos of Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars this morning with much fanfare here on Earth. The photo above is one of the first photographs snapped by the rover and beamed back to Earth. Captured through a fisheye wide-angle lens, the landscape photo hows a gravel field in the foreground and the rim of the Gale Crater (the rover’s new home) in the distance.

The image is blown out in the upper region due to the fact that the camera is pointed straight at the sun. Unlike our Earthling cameras, however, the one-megapixel Hazard-Avoidance cameras (Hazcams) on the rover are not damaged by the sun.

The rover’s “gear bag” isn’t limited to one-megapixel cameras. Once it settles into its new home, NASA engineers will deploy fancier cameras.

The Mast Cameras (Mastcam) pack two-megapixel sensors and will be used to shoot color photographs and high-resolution panoramas using 34mm and 100mm lenses:

In total, there are 17 cameras built into the rover.

12 of them are engineering cameras: eight Hazcams and four Navigation cameras (Navcams). Half of them are backups in case the primary cameras fail.

There are also a number of other cameras used for specific tasks. The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will be used to snap photos of distant objects, while the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) — located on an Inspector Gadget-like arm — will be used to snap macro photographs of rocks and soil.

Photographs of the red planet will be continuously published to NASA’s multimedia gallery, and the most exciting images are highlighted here.

NASA Mars Science Laboratory – Raw Images (via NASA)

Thanks for sending in the tip, Mike!


    you would think that with all the technology that’s out there they would get some better photos and not a photo is the darn wheel. smh. must of been shot in the Arizona desart

  • Sun Photo

    I’m not sure why people continue to propagate the myth that digital cameras can be damaged by pointing them at the sun. This myth was also repeated endlessly prior to the annular eclipse in the US during May of this year. Myself, and millions (billions?) of other photographers, point their digital camera at the sun all the time with no problems and no damage. Indeed, including the sun in the frame is a common artistic practice.

    Do a google image search, or just open your eyes and see the photographs with the sun in them all around you, laughing at the idea that digital cameras can be damaged by pointing them at the sun. Ask yourself this: Could manufacturers stay in business selling cameras that could be damaged by taking pictures with the sun in the frame? And then ask yourself what percentage of pictures taken by people include the sun in the frame? If digital cameras could be damaged by taking pictures with the sun in the frame, very quickly, only a small percentage of cameras would be usable.

    Throw off the myth of fear! Go outside! Include the sun in your pictures!

  • Zak Henry

    While I agree with what you are saying, there is a decent chance of damaging a sensor when trying to photograph a solar eclipse with a telephoto lens without some kind of ND filter. Sure, including the sun in a frame with a normal focal length is totally ok, but take care slapping a body on a telescope.

    Rule of thumb – if you haven’t gone blind after previewing the scene through the viewfinder, you’ll probably be fine.

  • Watched landing event live

    *3rd photo beamed back to earth, first two photos were the thumbnails with dust covers on, this higher res photo with the dust covers off didn’t arrive until around 1am PST time.

  • Andy

    The desart, huh? Just as the article states, they only had a window to broadcast small, low resolution images from hazard avoidance cameras (re-purposing something needed for earlier use) before the line of sight transmission back to Earth was blocked by some random big red planet.

  • Chris

    What Andy said. Plus, the photo of the wheel is part of the entire point of the hazcams. They’re to check for hazards around the rover’s wheels. Be patient, give them time to make sure everything’s working properly before they deploy the nice higher-resolution cameras on the main mast. ;)

  • Łukasz Bogumił

    I always read about military technologies being much more advanced than the regular, consumerlike. I wonder why can’t we have a full HD 3d images from this rover? I mean, my cell phone can do that and I refuse to belive that it would be impossible to include one such handset onboard!

  • TengaDun

    Looks like someone is having a grand ole time out there.
    Total-Privacy dot US

  • brob

    which instagram filter did they use on that shot?

  • Sun Photo

    “Decent chance”? What does that mean? What is the mechanism for damage? Has anyone ever damaged a sensor using a telephoto lens? Where is the data?
    This seems more propagation of the myth that sensors are as sensitive as the human eye, which is most certainly not true.

  • Mark

    One of the rare times I feel like a child again is when I read about the Mars missions. Though totally impractical and logistically impossible, I still daydream about stowing myself away in a compartment and hitching a ride to Mars. Alas, it’s not a space ship but maybe one day in my lifetime.

  • Captain Obvious

    Your phone didnt go through reentry at about a million degrees. Your phone probably cant stand huge dust storms. Your phone will not operate in -64 degrees. Consider where your phone operates and where NASAs cameras operate.