Mars rover sends back 1st 360-degree color view (Update)

Aug 09, 2012 by ALICIA CHANG
This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. In the next few days, the software on Curiosity will be optimized for surface operation. Image: NASA

The photo-snapping rover Curiosity returned another postcard from Mars on Thursday — the first 360-degree color panorama of Gale Crater.

Scientists admired the sweeping vista. In the distance was the base of Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain rising from the crater floor, where the six-wheel rover planned to go.

"It's very exciting to think about getting there, but it is quite a ways away," said mission scientist Dawn Sumner of the University of California, Davis.

Though it's the sharpest view yet of the landing site, the panorama was stitched together from thumbnails while scientists waited for better quality pictures to be downloaded.

Since safely landing Sunday night, Curiosity has dazzled scientists with peeks of its new home that at first glance seems similar to California's Mojave Desert. The initial pictures were fuzzy and black-and-white.

Earlier this week, the rover raised its mast containing high-definition and navigation cameras that have provided better views.

Maher Hanna, Manager, Instrument and Science Data System Operations Group at Jet Propulsion Laboratory works on incoming image data sets from NASA's Curiosity rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as they continuing to develop Curiosity's landing on Mars at the Surface Mission Support Area, SMSA control room at NASA's JPL in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The images are taken by Curiosity's just activated navigation cameras, or Navcams. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The car-size rover remained healthy and busy testing its various instruments. Several pebbles landed on the rover's deck next to its radiation sensor during the final seconds of landing as it was lowered to the ground, but project managers said the stones posed no risk.

Curiosity "continues to behave basically flawlessly," said mission manager Mike Watkins of the NASA Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $2.5 billion mission.

Over the weekend, the rover will take a break so its computers can get a software upgrade in a process similar to a laptop having periodic updates to its operating systems. The upgrade will take several days. Data download will continue during that time, but the rover won't be doing anything new.

During its two-year mission, the roaming laboratory will analyze rocks and soil in search of the chemical building blocks of life, and determine whether there were habitable conditions where microbes could thrive. As high-tech as Curiosity is, it can't directly look for past or present life; future missions would be needed to answer that question.

Curiosity arrived on Mars Sunday night after traveling more than eight months and 352 million miles (566 million kilometers). Because of its heft, it couldn't land using air bags like its predecessors. Curiosity made a precision landing, relying on a heat shield, supersonic parachute, retrorockets and cables that lowered it inside Gale Crater.

Since the thrilling landing, the pace on the surface has been deliberately slower.

Curiosity is the most complex interplanetary rover ever designed, and engineers are taking their time performing health checkups. The rover will not make its first drive or move its robotic arm for weeks.

Explore further: NASA asteroid defense program falls short: audit

5 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Mars rover sends higher-resolution image

Aug 06, 2012

(Phys.org) -- About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA's Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater. Mission Control at ...

Daybreak at Gale crater

Aug 25, 2011

This computer-generated images depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light.

Mojave Desert tests prepare for NASA Mars Roving

May 14, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Team members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission took a test rover to Dumont Dunes in California's Mojave Desert this week to improve knowledge of the best way to operate a similar rover, ...

Mars rover Curiosity beams back images showing its descent

Aug 07, 2012

(Phys.org) -- 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 ...

Recommended for you

Image: Crescent Mimas

7 hours ago

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon's violent history.

User comments : 36

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

technodiss
1 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2012
why do they black out the rover? we saw the thing get built. its not like there are any secrets about it. and anyways you can see it in the control room picture.
atomsk
3 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2012
why do they black out the rover? we saw the thing get built. its not like there are any secrets about it. and anyways you can see it in the control room picture.

I thought those were parts that are not even transmitted, to save bandwidth. No? In the control room picture that's maybe just a lower resolution preview.
panorama
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2012
why do they black out the rover? we saw the thing get built. its not like there are any secrets about it. and anyways you can see it in the control room picture.

I don't think it was intentionally blacked out. I'm willing to bet that is either missing data or an artifact of creating a flat image from the fish eye lens images, or both.
edit: ^^ you're probably right atomsk, it would make sense to just not even send that data since they aren't there to take self-portraits of the rover. Unless it's like the lander at the pole when ice formed on its leg.
Deathclock
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 09, 2012
why do they black out the rover? we saw the thing get built. its not like there are any secrets about it. and anyways you can see it in the control room picture.

I thought those were parts that are not even transmitted, to save bandwidth. No? In the control room picture that's maybe just a lower resolution preview.


Most expensive bandwidth in the universe!
atomsk
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2012
Now after seeing the picture at full resolution I noticed that you can see that it was stitched together from multiple smaller pictures. So the reason might be that they didn't make pictures / transmit the data for the black parts.
yyz
3 / 5 (4) Aug 09, 2012
In the color panorama, two sets of shallow depressions (to the right and left) seem to show areas of exposed bedrock excavated by the wash from the skycrane rockets. The bedrock material seems to have a darker, grayish appearance compared to the lighter ocher topsoil in these areas.
SatanLover
1 / 5 (4) Aug 09, 2012
why do the images look computer generated?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.3 / 5 (23) Aug 09, 2012
In the color panorama, two sets of shallow depressions (to the right and left) seem to show areas of exposed bedrock excavated by the wash from the skycrane rockets. The bedrock material seems to have a darker, grayish appearance compared to the lighter ocher topsoil in these areas.
Blast marks. See the description on the website
http://www.nasa.g...dex.html
why do they black out the rover? we saw the thing get built. its not like there are any secrets about it. and anyways you can see it in the control room picture.
The black and white panorama shows more of the rover
http://www.nasa.g...50137801
Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2012
I was hoping for more image of the horizon. The foreground is of interest, but the horizon would provide a better understanding of Mt Sharp.
Jitterbewegung
1.6 / 5 (13) Aug 09, 2012
"As high-tech as Curiosity is, it can't directly look for past or present life"

because as everyone knows Martians are like vampires and do not have a reflection so the cameras are useless.
Kafpauzo
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2012
Temporarily, the rover has only very limited bandwidth.

They're revving things up very, very slowly and carefully over the coming weeks. In due time there will be far more bandwidth.

So for the time being we'll have to make do with grainy thumbnails, and with only the most interesting parts of the scenes, to save bandwidth. But the full-resolution, full-mosaic versions of these images are stored in the rover's memory. We'll get them later on.

Images that show the rover itself are actually useful. The engineers use them for checking the rover's status. But black-and-white images are sufficient for this, and black-and-white requires less bandwidth for the same size and quality, so they tend to use that for now.

Color images of the landscape that show the rover itself in the foreground are also useful for us, so we can get that immersive feeling of being there on Mars. We'll get that, we just need some patience.
Kafpauzo
3 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2012
It's interesting that when you click the picture's "Enlarge" link, and then click again on the resulting picture to get full size, the picture that you get has a nice resolution even though it consists of thumbnails that are very grainy.

This means that when we get the same mosaic in full resolution, the quality should be very impressive, letting you zoom in very far into the picture.

We'll have to wait some time for that, so it takes some patience -- but the result is worth waiting for!
ubavontuba
Aug 10, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Deep_Cello_Coffee_Roasters
1.3 / 5 (16) Aug 10, 2012
Maybe it is the mojave. You cant belive anyting they say. A software upgrade? Why would anyone one do a software upgrade if everything is running so perfectly as the article said. They found something and they are taking a massive number of pictures; also as the article said. NASA is an arm of the DoD.
Kafpauzo
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2012
Why would anyone one do a software upgrade if everything is running so perfectly as the article said.


It's a change of capabilities.

The current software is optimized for the trip from Earth to Mars, and for the very complicated landing procedure.

The rover no longer needs to deal with those things. Now it needs to collect and analyze soil and rock samples, move around using its wheels while avoiding risky ground, etc. These capabilities were not needed during the trip from Earth to Mars.
Eoprime
1.9 / 5 (13) Aug 10, 2012
because as everyone knows Martians are like vampires and do not have a reflection so the cameras are useless.


Nah you got it wrong, they are translucent! As you can read on the internet, so it must be true!

Skepticus
1 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2012
As high-tech as Curiosity is, it can't directly look for past or present life; future missions would be needed to answer that question.

I am rather tired of the endless tease. Always "future missions would be needed to answer that question." As soon as one is landed, it is current one, so pleeeze wait for the next one...or the next! There are tools and analyzes available now that can settle the "life" issue once and for all, but for some reasons they are never assembled for one craft. One is tempted to be cynical and thinks that the planners, career scientists and engineers all want to drip-feed the paying public to get the money for as long as it is tolerable? Or that conclusively proven that Mars were lifeless, never have live of any sort, will take away half the magical fascination and thus funding for their life's pet study area and other crafts?
GSwift7
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 10, 2012
This means that when we get the same mosaic in full resolution, the quality should be very impressive, letting you zoom in very far into the picture.


Yes, each of the pieces of the mosaic above should be bigger than the mosaic once the real pictures are downloaded. I am also excited about getting the real pictures from the descent camera. Those will be amazing.

I am still hoping that some pieces of the spacecraft (heat shield, skycrane?) might be visible in the full resolution pictures from the lander. You wouldn't be able to pick them out in the above thumbnail mosaic, but the 100mm zoom camera should show them clearly if they are not obscured by terrain.

If that truely is bedrock exposed by the thrusters as opposed to a single burried stone, then the topsoil here is almost nonexistent. That's good news when it comes to traveling around later. There's less chance of getting stuck if there isn't much sand and dust on the ground.
antialias_physorg
3.1 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2012
I am rather tired of the endless tease. Always "future missions would be needed to answer that question." As soon as one is landed, it is current one, so pleeeze wait for the next one...or the next!

Because what you expect is somehow a craft that gives an answer to "life, the universe and everything". But that's not how science works.
Build upon what you have learned. Make as few assumptions as possible. And then take another TINY step forward.

This may not sound like Hollywood material, but in science slow-and-steady wins the day.

One is tempted to be cynical and thinks that the planners, career scientists and engineers all want to drip-feed the paying public to get the money for as long as it is tolerable?
No. They are doing science. A process you obviously are not familiar with and do not understand. It's sometimes better not to judge what you do not understand.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.1 / 5 (25) Aug 10, 2012
I am rather tired of the endless tease. Always "future missions would be needed to answer that question."...There are tools and analyzes available now that can settle the "life" issue once and for all, but for some reasons they are never assembled for one craft.
Well also, you can imagine if they spent billions more on a do-everything machine and it crashed, or if they sent a fleet of identical machines and found out that there was a critical design flaw in the model, that they would have trouble getting additional funding, or keeping the jobs they love so much?
But that's not how science works.
AA does not always appreciate that high-profile big-budget science only occurs because the public was willing to fund it. Usually.

This means that PR is a significant factor in science. Pretty pictures do help to further science and spectacular failures, while possibly valuable to the process, can impede science.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2012
AA does not always appreciate that high-profile big-budget science only occurs because the public was willing to fund it.

The public does not decide upon the budget of NASA or the likes. Not even remotely (i.e. that is not even an issue on anyone's mind when electing reptresentatives. If the science budget is one of your concerns then you have no real life problems). Handing out a budget is handled by Congress.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (22) Aug 10, 2012
AA does not always appreciate that high-profile big-budget science only occurs because the public was willing to fund it.

The public does not decide upon the budget of NASA or the likes. Not even remotely...Handing out a budget is handled by Congress.
Says the Auslander. And who votes legislators in or out of office? I thought we had settled this?

Heres an example:

"Long after the the House voted almost 2-1 to halt construction of the [SSC] collider, people in Waxahachie were just starting to tally the human toll -- local families disrupted and homesteads demolished to make way for the construction, others uprooted to follow the lure of the research opportunities. In all, the government bought 16,000 acres and nearly 200 homes to make room for the 54-mile oval tunnel. The entire community of Boz, home to about 400 people, was razed to make way for the SSC laboratory's west campus."

-These are obviously issues with political import.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2012
And who votes legislators in or out of office?

As I already noted: NASA budget does not figure highly in any ranking of campaign issues - or would you disagree?

Usually it's just the economy, jobs and wars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (26) Aug 10, 2012
-So you didnt read the article I posted?

"Scientists and policy experts say the determination to kill the $11 billion SSC may be the turning point in a decade-long debate over the size and scope of federally funded science projects like the space station, the human genome project, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the $237 million "asymmetric B-factory" accelerator awarded last week to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center."

-Politicians can make or break their careers over these projects.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (27) Aug 10, 2012
We are very familiar with the politics of global warming:

"The spectacle of a young political appointee with no college degree exerting crude political control over senior government scientists and civil servants with many decades of experience is deeply disturbing."
http://www.washin...991.html

Here is a number of titles for your reading pleasure:
http://en.wikiped..._science
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (26) Aug 10, 2012
Here is an enlightening article:

"So in the next decade, physicists are probably going to ask their governments for support for whatever new and more powerful accelerator we then think will be needed...

"That is going to be a very hard sell. My pessimism comes partly from my experience in the 1980s and 1990s in trying to get funding for another large accelerator.

"In the early 1980s the US began plans for the Superconducting Super Collider, or SSC...

"Then in 1992 the House of Representatives canceled funding for the SSC. Funding was restored by a HouseSenate conference committee, but the next year the same happened again...After the expenditure of almost two billion dollars and thousands of man-years, the SSC was dead.

"One thing that killed the SSC was an undeserved reputation for over-spending. There was even nonsense in the press about spending on potted plants for the corridors of the administration building."

-Politics killed the SSC, not science.

TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (24) Aug 10, 2012
Nuclear fusion became popular during the carter administration and the first gas crisis. But when Reagan and the republicans gained control, support for alternative energy waned, and budgets were cut. PPL laid off people en masse.

I see fusion funding is again under political stress:

"President Obamas budget request for next year cuts domestic fusion research by 16 percent, to $248 million. It would shutter a fusion lab at MIT, one of four funded by the Department of Energy. It would slash 50 to 100 jobs from the 450 at the Princeton lab."
http://www.washin...ory.html

-Back in its heyday PPL employed over 1800 people at 3 sites.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2012
What you expect is somehow a craft that gives an answer to "life, the universe and everything"

Why going to Mars, in particular? (1) It is the closest terrestrial type that can support colonization with some not-impossible efforts. (2) To ascertain that whether life has been there or not, which will aid in the planning of (1) and further understanding evolution of life, as well as of Earth's.
Therefore,I am only asking to settle ONE QUESTION, not "the universe and everything". Is it too much for this foul-smelling rabble to be allowed to ask??
After all, we foul-smelling rabbles taxpayers fund everything down to your underpants. Government doesn't get money from empty air. All the planning and budgets will come to naught if we taxpayers have no jobs to pay tax. And all the planners, government officials and everyone else will join us on the streets.
GSwift7
2.8 / 5 (9) Aug 10, 2012
You know, I don't think the photo shown is actually a 360 view. That looks like it might be a bit shy of 180. I was hoping to get a look to the rear of the rover, towards the direction of the "crash site" of the sky crane, but that should be a bit farther to the left in the above image, and that area doesn't appear to be shown there.

P.S. can't you please try to deny that political troll the pleasure of a response? Just ignore him.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.1 / 5 (22) Aug 10, 2012
You know, I don't think the photo shown is actually a 360 view. That looks like it might be a bit shy of 180. I was hoping to get a look to the rear of the rover, towards the direction of the "crash site" of the sky crane, but that should be a bit farther to the left in the above image, and that area doesn't appear to be shown there.

P.S. can't you please try to deny that political troll the pleasure of a response? Just ignore him.
I thought that. I think it is 360 at the horizon.
Tabali Tigi
1 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2012
so they can send a rover to mars and land it successfully, but they can't paste a panoramic picture correctly?

WTF NASA...?

do you see why people think you're shady?
Skepticus
1 / 5 (7) Aug 10, 2012
Well also, you can imagine if they spent billions more on a do-everything machine and it crashed, or if they sent a fleet of identical machines and found out that there was a critical design flaw in the model, that they would have trouble getting additional funding, or keeping the jobs they love so much?

Okay now the MSL is down safely, billions spent is not lost. but God forbids-if it has crashed-then the whole bundle instruments on the MSL that attempt to measure a dozen of different things will be as worthless as an equivalently expensive specific biological life analyzing instruments. Except that in the latter case, one question will definitely solved; where as the former will give the sorts of results of the Vikings landers ages ago -find many things, none in particular definitive-setting the stages for the further drip-feed.
Kafpauzo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2012
There's a mystery at the far left and far right of the 360-degree panorama.

In the black area, on the tile closest to the left edge, and halfway between top and bottom, you can faintly discern Curiosity's sundial-and-color-calibration thing.

The tile is very, very dark. Maybe it isn't visible on all computer screens. To see it better, download the panorama, and open it in an image editor. Brighten it very, very much, and also increase the contrast a lot. With the right settings it becomes very easy to see.

The almost-invisible tile continues at the right edge of the panorama.

I understand that they download this tile for color calibration. But why don't they show it to us?

The tile is no secret. It's available among the raw images at NASA's website. So why don't they include it in the panorama, with normal brightness? Why the darkening?

Even if the tile looks a little out of place, as it's detached from the other tiles, still I'd prefer to see all the tiles they have.
gopher65
not rated yet Aug 11, 2012
Kafpauzo: That dark area is where the thrusters of the skycrane hit the ground and blasted the dust away. It's basalt rock, I think.

Also, for those asking "why don't they just design a rover to look for life already?" After Viking's failure, congress passed a law that banned NASA from searching for life on Mars. It was seen as a way to force NASA on to other projects, cause the congress at the time thought Mars was a waste of time and money. Didn't work though.

Congress regularly passes stupid laws to limit NASA's activity, like the law that they passed banning NASA from developing or using inflatable modules for space stations (the congresscritters who proposed that bill were the ones whose districts contained the makes of the old, outdated, less safe, more expensive "tin can" modules).
Kafpauzo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2012
Gopher65, the thruster marks that you talk about are obviously part of the ground. As I said, what the image shows in the strange tile is a part of the rover, not the ground. It's the rover's color-calibration thing.

The thruster marks are in the light and very clearly visible parts of the image. I'm talking about the pitch-black parts, the almost pitch-black tile at the very edge, halfway between top and bottom.

I'll make it clearer. The raw image of the tile is this one: http://mars.jpl.n...&s=3 .

This image is a tile in the panorama, in an extremely, _extremely_ dark version, visible if you download the panorama http://cdn.physor...rsen.jpg , and then use an image editor to make it extremely bright and with a much heightened contrast.

But if you have a good monitor, and good eyes, you won't need to brighten the panorama. Then you'll see it directly on the panorama image here at phys.org
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2012
But if you have a good monitor, and good eyes, you won't need to brighten the panorama. Then you'll see it directly on the panorama image here at phys.org


They probably just had trouble meshing those images into the ones next to them, due to different autofocus settings in those images, so rather than spend hours trying to get them to match up with the others, they just dimmed those frames to the point that you can't see them. These are just thumbnails, after all. I imagine they are working on the real images now. That's better for me.
pianoman
1 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2012
Panoramic view of Gale Crater? That's nothing, Check out the view in Mars Hale Crater video. You won't believe what you see. Thanks