Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Beautiful Composite Photographs from 50 Years of Space Exploration

Over the past decade, photographer Michael Benson has worked as a self-assigned curator of the past 50 years of NASA’s interplanetary space exploration photography. His big idea is that the images produced during this period form an important chapter in the history of photography, so he wants to select and repackage images in a way that can appreciated by the general public. After browsing through massive numbers of RAW photos shot by space agencies, Benson composites and colorizes them into gorgeous wide-angle views showing what the locations would look like if the viewer were standing where the probe was.
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Photos of Astronauts Using DSLRs on the International Space Station

Earlier this month we shared some neat photos of astronauts using DSLRs while on spacewalks outside the International Space Station. In case you’re also wondering how the cameras are used inside the habitable satellite, we’ve carefully perused NASA’s 2Explore Flickr photo stream in search of those photos as well, and have collected them here in one place for your viewing pleasure. They’ve got some pretty nice gear up in the ISS… lucky astronauts.
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1909 Lincoln Penny Used to Calibrate the Mars Curiosity Rover’s Camera on Mars

Did you know that there’s US currency on Mars? It’s true: when NASA’s Curiosity rover was launched back on November 26, 2011, one of the things it carried with it was a penny from over a century ago. The 1909 Lincoln cent is part of the rover’s onboard calibration target used to check that the cameras are working properly.
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Photographs of Astronauts Using DSLRs on Spacewalks

This photograph of Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide taking a self-portrait was published to NASA’s amazing 2Explore Flickr account on Wednesday. It was snapped during a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The EXIF data embedded in the photo reveals that he was using a Nikon D2Xs with a 10.5mm fisheye lens at f/11, 1/500, and ISO 200.
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How the Curiosity Rover’s Photography Decisions Are Made

Earlier this month, when we were exploring why the NASA Curiosity rover’s cameras are so lame, we mentioned that the total amount of data the scientists can transfer on a daily basis is only around 31 megabytes. As anyone with a restrictive cell phone dataplan can attest to, having a small data cap makes you think carefully about the data that you choose to download. Glenn Fleishmann over at The Economist has an interesting writeup that sheds some light on how NASA scientists make their Martian photo shoot decisions:

Every day Justin Maki faces a tricky balancing act. He is one of the boffins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) responsible, among other things, for deciding what Curiosity photographs each Martian day, or sol, and which pictures it sends back home. “We can always take enough pictures to fill up the downlink,” Dr Maki says. The mission can currently beam at least 30MB a sol, including scientific measurements, engineering data and images, from Mars, via two satellites orbiting the planet, to Earth.

All of the rover’s 17 cameras, seven more than any previous exploratory vehicle, store images in a raw, unprocessed format and initially beam back tiny thumbnails (which NASA uploads as they come in). The scientists working on different aspects of the mission meet daily to determine which of the thumbnails to download in higher resolution. The “health and safety” of the rover takes priority. After the deliberations, which can last over an hour, instructions are dispatched to Mars.

Taking pictures on Mars: Red eyes (via Boing Boing)

Throw-Away Photographs Shot During Neil Armstrong’s Visit to the Moon

Neil Armstrong passed away this past Saturday at the age of 82. In addition to being the first man to walk on the moon, he was also the first photographer to set foot on that hunk of rock 238,900 miles away. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin snapped a total of 122 70mm color photographs using modified Hasselblad 500EL cameras during their short visit on July 21, 1969. However, not all of them were pretty.

American Photo magazine writes that the photographic record left by those two men shows a very human picture of that first landing. Some of the “dud” photos show accidental shutter preses, focusing errors, lens flare, and even photobombed landscape shots.
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Footage of Curiosity’s Descent onto Mars Interpolated to 25 Frames per Second

NASA’s Curiosity Rover snapped photographs at 5 frames per second as it descended onto the face of Mars a few weeks ago. The footage that results when the images are combined into a 15 frame per second HD video is pretty amazing, but apparently not amazing enough for a YouTube user named hahahaspam. He spent four straight days taking the 5 fps footage and interpolating it to 25 frames per second. This means that instead of a video showing the choppy landing at 3 times the actual speed, his video shows the landing smoothly and in real time!
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Earth and Jupiter Seen in a Single Photo Taken From Mars

Planetary conjunctions are beautiful to photograph from Earth, but send a camera to another planet in the Solar System, and you can shoot a planetary conjunction photograph containing Earth!

Back on May 8th, 2003, the Mars Orbiter Camera on the Mars Global Surveyor had the rare opportunity to photograph both the Earth and Jupiter in the same region of space. It was the first planetary conjunction observed from another planet, with the Earth 86 million miles away and Jupiter 600 million miles away. The resulting image (shown above right), contains both planets, along with some of the moons.
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The Curiosity Rover’s Descent into Mars as an Amazing HD Video

When NASA’s Curiosity rover performed its “seven minutes of terror” landing on Mars a couple weeks ago, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera had the task of capturing 1600×1200 (~1.9 megapixel) photographs at a rate of 5 frames per second. The camera began snapping away from when the heatshield separated to a few seconds after the rover touched down. The amazing high-definition video above was created with these photographs, showing what it’s like to fall onto the surface of the red planet.
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Why the Mars Curiosity Rover’s Cameras Are Lame by Today’s Standards

The first self-portrait captured by the rover

Ever since NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars and started beaming back photographs earlier this week, people have been wondering, “why are the photos so bad?” The criticism seems merited: consumers these days are snapping great high-res photographs using phones that cost just hundreds of dollars, yet NASA can’t choose a camera with more than 2-megapixels of resolution for their $2.5 billion mission?

In an interview with dpreview, project manager Mike Ravine of Malin Space Science Systems — the company that provided three of the rover’s main cameras — explains that there were a couple main reasons behind the “lame” cameras: data transfer and fixed specifications.
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