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Mars Science Laboratory

Mast Camera (Mastcam)

The Mast Camera, or Mastcam for short, takes color images and color video footage of the Martian terrain. The images can be stitched together to create panoramas of the landscape around the rover. Like the cameras on the Mars Exploration Rovers that landed on the red planet in 2004, the Mastcam design consists of two camera systems mounted on a mast extending upward from the Mars Science Laboratory rover deck (body). The Mastcam is used to study the Martian landscape, rocks, and soils; to view frost and weather phenomena; and to support the driving and sampling operations of the rover.

New Capabilities

Several new features on the Mastcam distinguish it from previous rover cameras:

  • One of the two Mastcam camera systems has a moderate-resolution lens, similar to the Pancam on the Mars Exploration Rovers. The other camera system has a high-resolution lens in order to study the landscape far from the rover.

  • The Mastcam can take high-definition video at 10 frames per second.

  • The Mastcam is designed to take single-exposure, color snapshots similar to those taken with a consumer digital camera on Earth. In addition, it has multiple filters for taking sets of monochromatic (single-color) images. These images are used to analyze patterns of light absorption in different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Electronics on the Mastcam process images independently of the rover's central processing unit.

  • The Mastcam has an internal data buffer for storing thousands of images or several hours of high-definition video footage for transmission to Earth.

Mastcam Camera
The mast camera on the Mars Science Laboratory captures the Martian terrain in color photos and high-definition video. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mastcam Electronics
A separate electronics box allows the Mastcam to process images independently of the main rover computer system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Illustrating MastCam Capabilities with a Terrestrial Scene
This set of views illustrates capabilities of the Mast Camera (MastCam) instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover, using a scene on Earth as an example of what MastCam's two cameras can see from different distances.