I have trouble comprehending the size of other planets, photos like these make me feel uneasy (in an exciting way) because they are strikingly similar to landscapes we might find here on earth - yet it's a completely different planet! I'm no longer looking at mars as a red circle as shown in textbooks, but now as vast unseen landscapes that have never been explored before - a new perspective and a new age of discovery and I can't wait to see what else happens in my life.
It's also a stunning achievement. As I lie in bed looking up into the darkness, a boundless expanse of tens of millions of miles of absolutely nothing lies between me, and a small man made robot with the martian wind gusting and whistling gently over it. A robot that is cautiously making small movements, buzzing and whirring going about it's business with no one there to hear the sounds or see the movements it's making. A machine who's intentions are totally pure - it's sole purpose is simply to learn. A small beacon in a far-reaching expanse of barrenness and nothingness.
One thing I found recently I'd never heard of before is 'Venera 13': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venera_13
A Russian rover that landed on Venus in 1981 - designed to last the harsh environment of Venus for 32 minutes but actually lasted 127 minutes. An extraordinary engineering achievement to have a rover go from freezing space temperatures to temperatures of over 450c.
And it managed to transmit images of the surface:
Absolutely stunning, and in some ways even more eerie and provocative to me than the Mars pictures as the environment it briefly operated in is far more hostile and as time was so limited the images are even more precious.
Or: http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Cassini-Huygens/SEMKVQOFGLE_1.html (check the hires download!)
Perhaps the best resource for surface images of Venus (along with fascinating image reconstruction) is Don P. Mitchell's page: http://mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm
Another fascinating tidbit: the Soviets also performed the first (and to date, only) deployment of a balloon probe on another planet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobot#The_Venus_Vega_balloons
He mentions on his copyright page that he studied Russian books/papers, befriended & interviewed Russian scientists, dug up rare photographs, and even processed original spacecraft data with custom C++ code to create some of the images!
I look forward to his book; does he have an ETA on the publication date?
"Shortly after passing into daylight, the Vega-2 aerostat plunged several kilometers, to a level of 0.9 atmospheres, dangerously close to the lower limit of its stable float zone. After the end of signal, the balloons probably overheated and burst, somewhere on the daylight side of Venus."
> I have trouble comprehending the size of other planets
It's actually reassuring to me. It's rocks. We understand rocks. I'm surrounded by them. There may not be a blade of grass, a gasp of air or a friendly face to greet us but at least there are rocks.
But around 50km above the surface of Venus, the temperatures are nice, and the pressure is 1 earth atmosphere. You just have to to stay up there.
> around 50km above the surface of Venus, the temperatures
> are nice, and the pressure is 1 earth atmosphere. You just
> have to to stay up there.
> as I understand, if you could cool it down to an
> acceptable temperature, you could walk on the surface
> with just a breathing apparatus, right?
Mars is a much better bet for human habitation in the short term. Chemically, it has all the ingredients we need to support human life. And it is much easier to build structures that can withstand the thin atmosphere (0.6 kPa) and relatively tame temperature range (-87 C to 63 C, all figures according to Wikipedia) than to build something that can survive the 9 MPa and 450 C on the surface on Venus.
not even mentioning the sulfur acid rains, lead sulfide snow and lack of magnetic field (cosmic rays penetrating atmosphere if it would be weakened)
> Doesn't mars also lack a magnetic field?
For humans to settle on Mars and stay for any length of time, we will need to find a way to shield ourselves from the ionizing radiation that reaches the surface.  On Earth, most of this radiation is either deflected by the global magnetic field, or absorbed by the atmosphere.
And to answer that question and others is why we(humans) have bothered with Space Lab, Mir, IST. You can Google answer.
If you do like video games, one that had such an intended effect on me was the first Mass Effect. There are a number of side missions where you descend onto planets in a multi-terrain vehicle and are supposed to check some things out (you can get out of the rover as well). Although for the most part the planets are barren (much like Mars), I found them incredibly effective at sending the scale message across. The most incredible one though, was a side mission on the Moon, with Earth right up above you. Though the scale wasn't 100% accurate, it still made for one of the most impressive moments in video games for me.
Navcam Left A: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl-raw-images/proj/msl/redops/ods/...
Navcam Right A: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl-raw-images/proj/msl/redops/ods/...
> Is it silent on Mars?
> Just curious if Martian weather tends to be windy or calm
Considering the propensity for dust storms I'm going to say windy. But the atmosphere is thinner, so this makes it harder to hear? Or quieter?
> But the atmosphere is thinner, so this makes it harder to
> hear? Or quieter?
Given that the speed of sound is roughly independent of pressure, and keeping all other variables equal, as $\rho$ decreases, $I$ also decreases. So yes, on Mars, sounds are much quieter.
Edit: Correction, twice, one was also sent on Phoenix but due to a design defect it was not used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(spacecraft)#Mars_Desce...
The data rate direct-to-Earth varies from about 500 bits per second to 32,000 bits per second (roughly half as fast as a standard home modem). The data rate to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is selected automatically and continuously during communications and can be as high as 2 million bits per second. The data rate to the Odyssey orbiter is a selectable 128,000 or 256,000 bits per second (4-8 times faster than a home modem).
Why do images from landers like this always look like there were taken from a iPhone 1's camera?
The early pictures are from a low resolution camera with a clear dust cover still attached. This camera is used to determine if Curiosity is about to land in a crater. A higher resolution camera will be activated later. <<
(taken from http://www.quora.com/NASA/Why-dont-we-have-more-color-images... )
Just look at the detail per pixel. It's amazing. You can see tiny details in the sand.
It's looks like if you took an image on a 20 megapixel DSLR with a high-quality lens, then scaled the image down to web size. The resolution isn't higher than a camera-phone, but the detail is remarkably better. And that's from nearly 40 years ago.
when Mr Van der Hoorn "used the original 11d128.blu, 11d128.grn and 11d128.red images from the NASA Viking image archive, converted them to .png, manually removed the noise and finally merged them into one image"
The Viking 1 camera(s) were of the Vidicon type: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vidicon.png
I made an image to illustrate this: http://f.cl.ly/items/0k2w2d1C1O3w3e0t300f/NASAQualityDegreda...
If I recall, the Mastcam will take a panoramic colour view later today, and that'll take a few days to download. Then we'll have a proper image, for the first time.
The MAHLI is the only visible light camera that hasn't been used at this point.
To contribute to these goals, MSL has six main scientific objectives:
* Determine the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials.
* Attempt to detect chemical building blocks of life (biosignatures).
* Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils.
* Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes.
* Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide.
* Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.
By those I can understand why carrying a high res camera was not a priority because it would have added weight, taken up space and also consumed more bandwidth while transmitting? :)
And I guess today they are cheap and easy enough (I mean, cheap as space exploration goes)
It's one ton, and you can't, which is why it has 2 navigation cameras and 4 hazard cameras near the wheels.
For what it's worth, just about 15 years ago that was the bandwidth that you could expect from consumer internet and BBS connections on earth.
And now we're doing it to Mars. Boggles the mind.
I'm pretty sure the images of the surface there are not altered.
(To me, it does not look like iPhone anymore.)
It's from O'Reilly's "Beautiful Data", made available free in honor of the current mars mission.
The short answer (covered in that document) is actually that the sensors have to be hardened for space use and are not consumer grade. They are incredibly expensive to produce.
The main camera, not yet deployed, can take 1600x1200 full-color pictures and HD video at 10fps. There's actually two of it, so it can also make 3D images/video. Other features are wide/telephoto lens, panorama stitching and 8GB flash storage.
Before complaining about resolution, this is like having a GoPro 3D on Mars, it has plenty of detail.
One of the articles mentions that the cameras are provided by the same manufacturer as the Viking missions, so they must certainly have improved. Expect some awesome images in the coming months!
Edit: Also, these appear to be the navigation cameras, so they're probably just good enough to be able to point the rover in a direction free of road hazards and tell it to boldly go where no other machine has yet gotten around to going.
most of a DSLR's weight is lens and battery(s), both of which are not issues in this case, since the lens would be the same and the power comes from a nuclear battery.
NASA couldn't just bolt on a 5DmkIII and expect it to work because the electronics would be fried.
That said, the Apollo missions took a not-very-modified Hasselblad camera with them that worked fine, which is why we have much higher resolution pictures of the moon, despite it being decades ago.
That and the fact that they used sneakernet, which is still much higher bandwidth than wireless, especially in space.
In the past years, while your mother played in the sunlight and your father smiled at girls and drank cool drafts as the evening drew in, before you were even a glimmer or a sunbeam, we had devices called "film cameras".
These "film cameras" did not have electronic components. They worked by using levers, springs and wheels. An emulsion that is reactive to light was prepared and pasted onto a plastic film. The plastic film was exposed to the light, but briefly. Later a complicated process was applied to transfer the reacted image (for that is what it was) onto other media, which could then be copied.
If one looks upon The Sacred Ebay (all bless the name of Sacred Ebay) one will find similar devices today.
In this way, the dark time became but light.
Ahhhwaahhhh wooooo. Ahhhwahh wooo...
(THIS IS IN JEST)
Wherein the effects of radiation on films is documented. The answer is that some damage occurs, but films are fogged only by extreme conditions such as those that STS-31 got hit by. I don't know what steps were taken by apollo to protect films, but I would not be surprised if some protection was used to prevent excessive damage.
Also I would point out that Apollo missions were 8 days in length while the martian missions are 9 mths long (if they smash into Mars at 13k kmph) or hopefully 24 mths + long if they work - hence the serious need for hardening.
Anyway - if you like don't believe in it all - the rest of us are happy looking at the photos, data and science and enjoying the general idea. You can believe in invisible pink unicorns or ghosts or something instead if you like! (we don't mind)
There's a reason why they don't send the latest and greatest camera or computer technology into space.
Only true if you assume the same sensor area for the 2MP sensor and the 16MP sensor, which is a poor assumption. If they did use sensors with the same area you would pay dearly with high noise and low sensitivity just to cram more pixels in there. I think most photographers figured out awhile ago that the "Megapixel War" is only meaningful as a way to pitch perceived quality to uninformed consumers.
It would be good though if NASA did catch up with sensor technology. I suspect the 2MP sensor was approved years ago when it was state of the art.
Also NASA is notoriously risk averse (for good reason). Apparently it is very common for them to rely on old but proven technology. Some of this has to do with risk aversion, but I imagine some of it also has to do with budget. It pains me to think what NASA could be doing with 10x more money.
Me too, but pretty much it all ends going to Lockheed anyway whether it comes via the DoD or Nasa. I don't mean that conspiratorially either, even JPL people joke that JPL stands for "Just Procure Lockheed". The subcontractors rarely get mentioned in Nasa PR, but Nasa is really a whole bunch of different project offices spread over a few campuses with an enormous ecosystem of subcontractors.
I expect a vertical, strongly-led skunkworks style structure with guaranteed funding for several continuous years (vs "start working on this now but we can't promise we won't change our minds in 12 months" which causes a lot of subcontractors to not properly commit to new hires or other big capital commitments, and having to spread all the work evenly among different states) would probably yield 10x as much for exactly the same money.
Regardless of all that organizational arm-chairing (though I work in this space, hoho), Curiosity is bloody fantastic and I am very excited to follow its progress over the next year at least.
Camera chat: fewer bigger pixels = less ccd noise - remember Mars further away from the Sun than Earth, and so it's generally darker. Take an Iphone 1 photo of things at twilight to appreciate some of the difference!
I agree that there are a lot of subs, but JPL and other centers have a very strong interest in maintaining a core capability in strategic areas. Launch vehicles: not a core capability, and commercially available -- subcontract these. Planetary robotics and deep space communication: core capabilities -- keep in-house.
Also, your comment underestimates how much distributed expertise is required to develop and integrate a set of instruments like this, and to get it to Mars. It's not practical for all that expertise to be NASA only.
A lot of large launches are done by United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a Boeing/Lockheed-Martin consortium. (I.e., they provide the rocket and the launch facilities -- for instance, they did all the Shuttle launches, as well as the MSL launch.) You'd have to involve them at an early stage to get costing worked out.
There's a second consortium, also Boeing/Lockheed-Martin, that does manned space operations for Shuttle (formerly) and for Station. (Operations = flight control from the ground, post-launch. E.g., rotating the solar panels on Station.) That one is called United Space Alliance, or USA for short. Catchy, no? ;-) AFAIK, USA does not play any role in unmanned operations.
As the GP pointed out, there is a lot of money in launches, launch vehicles, and in manned operations, hence the contractor involvement. As you can guess -- you can't even play Boeing off against Lockheed-Martin because they're in a consortium -- that world is kind of creaky. SpaceX is disrupting ULA big-time.
Lockheed-Martin is also involved in instrument design and other non-launch activities. Getting an instrument into space is a multifaceted affair.
Here's a good example. Juno, a spacecraft currently on its way to Jupiter:
Managed by JPL, spacecraft by Lockheed-Martin, science PI is at SWIRI, instruments from all over. And this is a "medium-size" mission, not a "flagship" mission like MSL or James Webb.
"Selected components were heated to temperatures
ranging from 110 to 146 degrees Celsius (230 to
295 degrees Fahrenheit) for durations up to 144
hours. Tools and other equipment that could come
into contact with rover hardware were also cleaned
routinely with alcohol wipes."
More details here:
Why can't we send some robust organic life to Mars and dump it there, Just to see what happens?
It's cool thinking about a little robot on mars cruising around doing stuff for us, still showing reflections from THE sun.
List of missions to Mars:
My estimate would be about a mile.
the rover is in a clean chamber, with the staff wearing suits. Why is the clean chamber needed for assembly?
They are also responsible for ensuring that samples returned to Earth from outer space are handled safely.
Robots are meant to provide scientific data about Mars ecosystem, explore further on the surface and so on. What does a men, right now, add there? Nothing. Just danger and wasting money.
Now, investigating technology that could put a man on Mars, that's interesting. But not just for setting foot on the surface, just for bringing to reality new tech that allows that.
Curiosity is an achievement itself. Great technology, and for now, greatly executed. How many different proves went to the moon before a man could set its foot on there?
It's not embarassing that in 40 years "we" haven't gotten anywhere else. To me it's embarassing that in 40 years we do not have yet sustainable way of keeping life on our own planet. Energy, on Earth and beyond, it's what could set a new standard for human race.
(1pm EST or 10am PST on all NASA channels)
It's ridiculous to travel across the system and not being able to send good images.
Also arguments about how it would be hard to add good camera, simply is not true. I agree about uplink and understand.
The descent imager uses the same sensor as the main mast cameras, but with different optics.
If you want to blow up a giant printout wait for the stitched-together shots, I suppose.
Imagine if you lived on another planet and sent a probe that landed in the middle of the desert in Africa. You wouldn't exclaim "that looks boring!", you'd say "awesome, so much data to crunch!"
> the most interesting things you can see are the dust
> devils and maybe/hopefully, ice formations
This is why Gale Crater was picked as the rover's landing site; there are several nearby features, including Aeolis Mons, that will provide the rover with an opportunity to date and investigate rock layers from different eras.