Science & Nature

Capturing history, a selfie from the Red Planet

NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover took selfies and shared them on Twitter.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars includes the search for signs of ancient microbial life. NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover will illustrate the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and dust.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

After a busy schedule, on 20th January 2023, on the 682nd Martian day, the Rover took a selfie and shared it on Twitter. The selfie shows 10 sample tubes it deposited at a sample depot it is creating in an area of Jezero Crator nick named ‘Three Forks.’

The selfie is a combination of 56 individual images

The crater is believed to be the site of a lake that flowed on the surface in the past. The selfie is a combination of 56 individual images that were stitched together once they were sent back to Earth. The images were captured by the Wide-Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering (Watson) camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm.

Like the Curiosity rover, Perseverance has a small rotating tower at the end of its robotic arm. Along with other science instruments, the rotating tower includes the WATSON camera, which stays focused on the rover during selfies while being angled to capture a part of the scene. The arm acts like a selfie stick, remaining just out of frame in the final product.

When images come down from Mars, the image processing engineers start by cleaning up any blemishes caused by dust that settled on the camera’s light detector. Then, they assemble the individual image frames into a mosaic and smooth out their joints using software.

The rover has taken a total of 17 samples so far

Finally, an engineer warps and crops the mosaic so that it looks more like a normal camera photo that the public is used to seeing. The rover has taken a total of 17 samples so far in over two years of its operation on Mars.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »

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