With a primary objective of determining whether Mars offered environmental conditions suitable for life, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has now complete a full Martian year, or 687 Earth days, on the red planet. To celebrate in true 2014 fashion, the rover captured a selfie to mark a full year exploring the planet.
At an area near where the rover touched down in August 2012 is an area called Yellowknife Bay, where the Curiosity accomplished its aforementioned goal. After discovering two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill, analysis of the samples revealed that the area of Yellowknife Bay was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them, according to NASA.
Of the four cameras on the Curiosity rover, the Mars Hand Lens Imaging (MAHLI) camera was used to capture the image. The MAHLI camera is a focusable color camera located on the turret at the end of a robot arm. It features a Truesense Imaging 2 MPixel KAI-2020 CCD image sensor with a 7.4 µm x 7.4 µm pixel size and a maximum frame rate of 30 fps. MAHLI is able to capture close-up color images of Martian rocks and surface material at a resolution of up to 12.5 µm per pixel, which is enough to detect an object smaller than the width of a human hair.
Color imaging in the MAHLI camera is achieved using a Bayer pattern filter and the camera also utilizes two white LEDs for nighttime imaging. In addition, MAHLI has two UV (365 nm) LEDs that is used to look for materials that fluoresce under long wave UV illumination.
(Note: The image captured by the Curiosity isn’t quite a selfie, but more accurately, a mosaic of many separate images that were stitched together, explained Michael Ravine, advanced projects manager at Malin Space Science Systems, the company that developed the rover’s camera systems, in a Huffington Post article.)
NASA’s Opportunity rover also recently celebrated an anniversary, having spent 10 years on the red planet. Just like its counterpart, the Opportunity used its panoramic camera to capture an image of itself and send it back to Earth.
View the NASA press release.
Also check out:
Curiosity Rover captures striking image of Mars’ Mount Sharp
Telescopes help identify first ring system around minor planet
Images captured by Cassini spacecraft may show ocean waves on Titan
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