Just days after an incredible landing watched by millions of people worldwide (including me), NASA’s Curiosity rover has sent back the first high resolution images of the Martian surface from the dual navigation cameras on the rover’s mast.
The dual navigation cameras each have a medium-angle, 45-degree field of view and are capable of returning three-dimensional information about the Martian terrain. They are designed to survey the landscape broadly and quickly, capable of looking all around and also up and down. I haven’t broken out my 3D glasses to view some of these images, but they are available here.
The image below shows the mountainous rim of Gale crater and a lot of erosion, it also shows the middle ground between Curiosity and the rim composed of low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two features carved out by blasts from the rover’s descent stage thrusters.
The first image taken by Curiosity’s cameras shows the rover’s now-upright mast in the center, and the science arm’s shadow on the left. The arm itself can be seen in the foreground with a label in case the rover gets lost and needs to be returned home, or for self portraits.
The navigation cameras on the mast are used to help find the sun so that Curiosity can locate and communicate with NASA. After locating the Sun, the cameras are turned in the opposite direction to view the masts shadow to confirm the Sun’s location, and thus the positioning of the rover itself. Very much like a sun-dial or astrolabe.
Curiosity captured this 360-degree self portrait, compiled with mostly thumbnails, using the navigation cameras pointing down at the rover deck.
Curiosity sent back this 360-degree panoramic view from the landing site with the Navigation camera. Mount Sharp is to the right, and the north Gale Crater rim can be seen at center with a hint of Curiosity in the foreground.
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– Ex astris, scientia –