NASA's newest 2.5 billion dollar Mars rover named Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet early this morning. In this post I will try to update everyone on everything from the incredibly complex landing concept, the suspenseful live video of the landing itself, and the first images that this Rover has sent us.
Let's first start with NASA's overall plan. Apparently landing Curiosity on the surface of Mars is a little more difficult than using a Parachute. Many have said that Curiosity's landing may be the most complicated "landing" in history. Check out this video of the full explanation.
Luckily for us, NASA recorded these 7 minutes of suspense early this morning so we can experience the terror and excitement along with them.
So far we have received a couple of pretty low res images taken by one of the vehicle's lower-fidelity, black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras.
In the near future we should expect to see much better images from the main cameras.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, aka the Curiosity) has two mast cameras. One has a fixed 34mm f/8 lens that covers a 15° field of view, covering 1200x1200 pixels on a 1600 by 1200 CCD. The other is a fixed 100mm f/10 lens, with a 5.1° field of view on an identical sensor. You can see some pre-launch images taken with them here.
These cameras can actually do a lot more than what we've seen so far. They'll transmit color images as they have Bayer Pattern Filter CCDs, and have adjustable filters to capture different wavelengths of light:
Each Mastcam camera head also has a filter wheel, so that images taken by looking through filters covering different, narrow visible and near-infrared wavelengths can be obtained. Filters for the 34 mm Mastcam are (in nanometers): 440, 525, 550, 675, 750, 865, 1034, and 440(neutral density). Filters for the 100 mm Mastcam are (in nanometers): 440, 525, 550, 800, 905, 935, 1035, and 880(neutral density). The neutral density filters are for viewing the Sun. Each filter wheel also includes a visually clear (actually infrared rejection coated) filter for nominal RGB (red, green, blue) imaging using the Bayer Pattern CCD.
The cameras can also capture 720p video, full 360° panoramas, and even use both lenses to capture 3D images. This information won't be broadcast home instantly as the files are pretty large for such a long trip — the Rover has 8GB of onboard storage, and will transmit thumbnails back first, so that NASA can request the images it really wants to see. via Pop Photo