Take a peek inside Curiosity's shell
Take a look around Curiositys cozy cabin! Ok, theres really not much to see (she didnt get a window seat) but when the image above was taken by the rovers Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on April 20, the spacecraft shes tucked into was just over 120 million km (74 million miles) from Earth, en route to Mars. In other words, just past those blurry components and outside that dark shell is real outer space thats cool!
This color image was planned by the MSL team, used to confirm that MAHLI is operating as it should. The two green dots are reflections of the cameras LED lights, and the rusty-orange out-of-focus parts are cables. The silver thing is a bracket holding said cables.
So why is this fancy camera taking blurry pictures (and the folks at NASA are happy about it?) Since MAHLI is designed to take both close-up images of rocks on Mars as well as landscape shots, it has a focusing motor. But when its not in use such as during its current 11-month-long cruise to Mars the motor puts the focusing lens into a safe position to protect it from damage during launch, entry and landing.
Positioned this way, MAHLI can only focus on objects 2 cm (less than an inch) away from its lens, and there simply arent any inside the capsule.
Of course, once Curiosity arrives at Mars and completes her exciting landing at Gale Crater, MAHLI will have plenty of things to take pictures of! Until then well be patient, it can take a rest and we can rest assured that its working just fine.