JANUARY 7--Three days after successfully landing on Mars, the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" has successfully begun transmitting high-resolution color images of the "red" planet. The CCD image-sensor chips, designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, were manufactured at the DALSA (www.dalsa.com) semiconductor-wafer-production facility in Bromont, Quebec, Canada.
The space-qualified chips are critical components in the nine electronic cameras aboard each of the two Rovers. "Spirit" landed on Saturday, January 3, and "Opportunity," its twin, is expected to land on the other side of the planet in three weeks. Three cameras on each Rover are responsible for scientific investigation, including panoramic and stereoscopic images. Six other cameras aid in navigating the vehicle on the surface of Mars. The cameras will serve as the vehicle's "electronic eyes," as it examines its landing site for geological evidence of past liquid water activity and past environmental conditions hospitable to life.
DALSA-built sensors on the "camera bar" of each rover provide high-quality
images for analysis and navigation. Spirit's high-resolution "Pancam," which uses the DALSA-manufactured chips, is the most sophisticated color imaging system ever sent to the surface of another planet and is responsible for the color images Spirit has transmitted to Earth. The stereo pair of CCD cameras is located on a "camera bar" that sits on top of the mast of the Rover and is responsible for taking high-resolution views of the surface and sky through eight different-colored filters. Pancam's mast assembly allows it to rotate a complete 360° while the camera bar itself can swing up or down through 180° of elevation. This allows the cameras to generate stunning panoramic image mosaics as large as 4000 pixels high by 24,000 pixels around, equivalent to a 96-Mpixel image.
"We're extremely proud of the contribution our employees at Bromont have made to this landmark achievement in space exploration," commented Savvas Chamberlain, CEO of DALSA Corporation. "We have a good working history with NASA/JPL and we're thrilled that we can once again play a role in such an important project."
The Mars Exploration Rover is the second high-profile space-related project DALSA has been involved in the past several years. Engineers in Waterloo, Ontario, supplied the space-qualified CCD camera electronics for the Canadarm2 robotic arm that was installed at the International Space Station in April 2001.