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04.21.2008

Martian Eyes Are Watching

This animated GIF is a combination of two images. The first image shows a closeup view of the two pairs of camera lenses on a shelf. The left-hand pair are larger than the right-hand pair, go to the hazard avoidance camera, and have a larger, fish-eye lens field of view for examining the rover's wheels and immediate surroundings. Its lenses are a clear, almost-turquoise blue. The right-hand pair of lenses are smaller and go to the navigation camera, which takes panoramic, far-field images of surrounding terrain. The first image shows a scientist with sandy hair and sideburns and wearing a white lab coat standing just in front and to the left side of two pairs of camera lenses on a a shelf. His left wrist is attached to a cord that is plugged into an outlet below the shelf to prevent the transfer of static electricity to the instruments.

The next set of "eyes" to journey to Mars are already busy observing people and objects on Earth. Keen vision will be essential to keeping the Mars Science Laboratory rover, a vehicle the size of a small SUV, out of trouble amid the red planet's cliffs, sand, and boulders. Using near-sighted and far-sighted cameras identical to the wildly successful and long-lived hazard avoidance and navigation cameras on NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Science Laboratory rover will avoid obstacles and often find its own way.

Of course, no space explorer ever takes flight hardware for granted! Engineers conduct regular eye exams just to make sure the cameras are ready to use their digital eyesight and computer smarts to guide the rover, and naturally, to take pictures and send panoramic postcards back home.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Higher Res Images:
  This image shows a closeup view of the two pairs of camera lenses on a shelf. The left-hand pair are larger than the right-hand pair, go to the hazard avoidance camera, and have a larger, fish-eye lens field of view for examining the rover's wheels and immediate surroundings. Its lenses are a clear, almost-turquoise blue. The right-hand pair of lenses are smaller and go to the navigation camera, which takes panoramic, far-field images of surrounding terrain.
Full Size Still Image
This image shows a scientist with sandy hair and sideburns and wearing a white lab coat standing just in front and to the left side of two pairs of camera lenses on a a shelf. His left wrist is attached to a cord that is plugged into an outlet below the shelf to prevent the transfer of static electricity to the instruments.
Full Size Still Image
 

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