Awesome First Snapshot of Earth From Curiosity Rover

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Not much more than just a few pixels on the photo above, that bright dot in the twilight Martian sky is Earth, as seen by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover.

A first view of the rover’s picture of its home planet, taken from the surface of Mars, even shows Earth’s moon.

And while NASA engineers say they have removed the effects of cosmic rays on this released image, any sky-watcher on Mars would clearly be able to make out Earth and its lone natural satellite as seen here, viewing them as two bright ‘evening’ stars in the dusky skies.

The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity captured this surreal view some 80 minutes after local sunset on January 31, 2014, was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometers).

Written By: Andrew Fazekas
continue to source article at newswatch.nationalgeographic.com

17 COMMENTS

  1. Nice photo!
    The Rover hopefully will dodge the shooting gallery, which is fortunately sparse, but may be able to find debris from one of the recent new craters, if there is one near enough (but not too near at impact)!

    A Nasa spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet has spied a fresh impact crater on the Martian surface. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26067927
    >

    The hole is about 30m (100ft) in diameter and surrounded by a blast zone of debris punched out of the ground by the meteorite impact.

    The explosion that generated this crater tossed out debris as far as 15km (9.3 mi).

    The image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRise camera, one of six instruments on the probe.

    Researchers used HiRise to examine this site because the orbiter’s Context Camera had revealed a change in appearance in this Martian region between observations in July 2010 and May 2012.

    Scientists have carried before-and-after imaging to bracket the appearance dates of fresh craters on Mars.

    These studies indicate that impacts producing holes at least 3.9m (12.8ft) in diameter occur at a rate exceeding 200 per year across the planet.

    The MRO is one of the satellites used for relaying data from the Rover back to Earth.

    It has also photographed the Rover.

    Curiosity rover spotted by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

  2. Although this rover is a great achievement, i wonder why it has taken so long for them to think about taking a picture of the earth from mars. I’m also puzzled as to why they did not put a camcorder on the rover. They had camcorders on the moon in the 70s Apollo missions. This would have generated much more public interest leading to more funding for future missions. Can you imagine a recording of a sunset and earthrise on mars in real time. Another couple of questions: Why does the earth look so small considering it is 2/3 bigger than mars and mars looks distinctly red and bigger than this when viewed from earth? And where are all the other stars and milky way? I would expect that the night sky from the martian surface would look spectacular considering it has such a very thin atmosphere. And seeing as mars is much closer to the massive Jupitor, wouldn’t that planet look huge in the Martian night sky?

    • In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:
      >

      I’m also puzzled as to why they did not put a camcorder on the rover. They had camcorders on the moon in the 70s Apollo missions. This would have generated much more public interest leading to more funding for future missions.

      I think that is because of the limits of data transmission via the orbiting satellites.

      http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/08/08/Curiosity-interview-with-Malin-Space-Science-Systems-Mike-Ravine
      >

      A number of factors led to the use of 2MP sensors in the main imaging cameras used on NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, says the project manager responsible for their development. The slow data rates available for broadcasting images back to Earth and the team’s familiarity with that family of sensors played a part, says Malin Space Science Systems’ Mike Ravine, but the biggest factor was the specifications being fixed as far back as 2004. Multi-shot panoramas will see the cameras deliver high-res images, he explains, but not the 3D movies Hollywood director James Cameron had wanted.

      ‘There’s a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced but there are things that mitigate against that. These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don’t get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn’t sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn’t compare well to what you get in an iPhone today.’

      There are three ways for Curiosity, to broadcast data back to Earth – but it’s only the UHF transmitter that can be used for transmitting the amounts of data required for sending back images. ‘The UHF antenna transmits to two spacecraft orbiting Mars, which relay the results back to Earth. That’s where most of the data is coming from. It gives us on the order of 250 megabits per day, and that’s got to be shared between a bunch of instruments, so there’s not much bandwidth for the cameras.’ Ravine explains.

      Another factor was that the same sensor had to meet the needs of four different cameras (MAHLI, the two Mastcams and MARDI, the camera tasked with capturing the rover’s descent to the planets’ surface). ‘Everything in a project like this is sensitive to price and risk, both real and perceived. The cameras differ in terms of their optics, but by building them around a single platform, we didn’t have to re-test and qualify each of them separately. This makes them more dependable and less expensive than if you have to do it four times.’

      Can you imagine a recording of a sunset and earthrise on mars in real time.

      The earlier rovers had a go at this:-

      http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2012/08/10/what-does-earth-look-like-from-mars/

      • Thanks for the link. That was some really good information, especially in the comments section. I couldn’t find any info about how Jupitor looks from mars though.
        If only they didn’t give up when they were thinking about putting James Cameron’s 3d video recorder on the rover. Where there’s a will, you will usually always find a way. Do you know if the next Martian rovers planned have camcorders on them? I’m sure that an investment in video cameras, whatever the cost, would result in a vast increase in the general public interest and government funding supported by the people.In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:

        I’m also puzzled as to why they did not put a camcorder on the rover. They had camcorders on the moon in the 70s Apollo missions. This would have generated much more public interest leading to more funding for future missions.

        I think that is because of the limits of…

      • In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:

        There are three ways for Curiosity, to broadcast data back to Earth – but it’s only the UHF transmitter that can be used for transmitting the amounts of data required for sending back images. ‘The UHF antenna transmits to two spacecraft orbiting Mars, which relay the results back to Earth. That’s where most of the data is coming from.

        As you already made clear.

        • As I explained earlier, I was not asking if they could make a live video from mars, rather record a video and send it back to earth later. I think the problem is that the camera can only record at a speed of 10fps. So any video it makes would not be smooth in motion like if I recorded a video using my phone. I hope that the next mission they send to mars has a video camera that is capable to record video at 30fps. Even If it takes 30 days to send back to earth a 30 minute video at 1 minute a day after the recording has been made, it could make one 30 minute video a month. Just think of the amount of public interest and extra funding that would have generated.
          I think it was a huge missed opportunity even though the scientists think it would be of no scientific benefit. Also, when the Cassini spacecraft flew through the rings of Saturn and is still in orbit around that planet. Imagine the sight if it had the capability to video record a half hour video at 30fps, then send the recording back to earth at 1 minute per day, then erase the memory and start recording again.
          This would really kindle the spirit of adventure that is missing in most people who seem to be totally apathetic about the space program. We can probably never send a human there in my lifetime, so it would be fantastic to feel like you are actually there through the eyes of a robot with a video recorder and not just a still image camera.In reply to #16 by keyplayer88:

          In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:

          There are three ways for Curiosity, to broadcast data back to Earth – but it’s only the UHF transmitter that can be used for transmitting the amounts of data required for sending back images. ‘The UHF antenna transmits to two spacec…

    • In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:

      I’m also puzzled as to why they did not put a camcorder on the rover. They had camcorders on the moon in the 70s Apollo missions. This would have generated m…

      My 2 pennies worth. Camcorder is a reduction of the two words ‘camera recorder’. An all in one device for recording video. It has a lens and a video recording system, older systems were analogue (e.g. VHS), newer systems are digital (e.g. DV, mpeg). There are many ways of analysing data generated by the cameras and experiments on the lander, but to do so it must first be encoded onto a radio signal and transmitting back to Earth, which will take some minutes to arrive. This data can then be used to analyse local conditions or recreate an image or video.

      You were asking about, ‘a recording of a sunset and earthrise on mars in real time’. Because it takes time for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth there will always be a delay, and even if events were recorded near instantaneously on the lander, it would still take time for that data to reach the Earth. There is also a trade off between the weight on the lander, its power source and the hardware needed to carry out experiments. From what I understand the data will certainly need to be buffered, that is stored locally, on the lander until it is transmitted back to mission control. However the bandwidth needed to realise real time HD video, let alone 3D, would be counter to the experimental nature of the mission, and the physical limitations of the link.

      • In reply to #8 by keyplayer88:
        >

        From what I understand the data will certainly need to be buffered, that is stored locally, on the lander until it is transmitted back to mission control. However the bandwidth needed to realise real time HD video, let alone 3D, would be counter to the experimental nature of the mission, and the physical limitations of the link.

        The MAVEN probe is carrying the new Electra Mars Radio Relay which is important because some of the present Mars orbiting radio relays are getting past their use-by dates.

        MAVEN is built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and its design is based on those of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The orbiter has a cubical shape of about 2.3 meters × 2.3 meters × 2 meters high,[18] with two solar arrays that hold the magnetometers on both ends. The total length is 37.5 m.[19] NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided an Electra telecommunications relay package[20] which has a data transfer rate of up to 10 Mbit/s,[21] but the highly elliptical orbit of the spacecraft will limit its usefulness as a relay for operating landers on the surface. -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAVEN
        >

        The probe is expected to arrive in Mars’ orbit in September 2014, at approximately the same time as India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

        On October 1, 2013, only seven weeks before launch, a government shutdown caused suspension of work for two days and initially threatened to force a 26-month postponement of the mission. With the spacecraft nominally scheduled to launch on November 18, a delay beyond December 7 would have caused MAVEN to miss the launch window as Mars moves too far out of alignment with the Earth.[11] However, two days later, a public announcement was made that NASA had deemed the 2013 MAVEN launch so essential to ensuring future communication with current NASA assets on Mars—namely the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers—that emergency funding was authorized to restart spacecraft processing in preparation for an on-time launch.

      • Sorry, I think you misunderstood me. When I said record in real time I meant a smooth recording like what you would actually see if you were standing on the surface and using you own eyes. If it’s say a one hour recording This could then be stored, then transmitted to the orbiter, then transmitted to earth, even if it takes a long while to upload bit by bit it would be worth it. They needed a camera that could film at at least 30 frames per second for the recording to look smooth to the human eye I am told. In reply to #8 by keyplayer88:

        In reply to #4 by brown dwarf:

        I’m also puzzled as to why they did not put a camcorder on the rover. They had camcorders on the moon in the 70s Apollo missions. This would have generated m…

        My 2 pennies worth. Camcorder is a reduction of the two words ‘camera recorder’. An all in one device for…

        • In reply to #10 by brown dwarf:

          Sorry, I think you misunderstood me. When I said record in real time I meant a smooth recording like what you would actually see if you were standing on the surface and using you own eyes. If it’s say a one hour recording This could then be stored, then transmitted to the orbiter, then transmitted t…

          Thanks for your reply. I did understand what you said. As stated in my previous post ‘even if events were recorded near instantaneously on the lander, it would still take time for that data to reach the Earth’. So even if Curiosity can record ‘real time video’ (see below) it does not necessarily follow that this can be transmitted and viewed in real time, due to the physical limitations of the radio link. It could be transmitted at a slower rate (lower bandwidth) and then reconstituted to produce a viewable image, in which case the viewer will see it at normal speed (say 30 frames/s) as it happened (past) but not as it is happening (contemporaneously). ‘Real time’ is therefore a relative term. The following suggests Curiosity does have hi-res video capability. But to repeat, this has to be transmitted back to Earth on a relatively low bandwidth radio link and hi-res video requires high bandwidth.

          http://www.space.com/13689-nasa-amazing-mars-rover-curiosity-science.html

          ‘Mast Camera (MastCam)

          The MastCam is Curiosity’s workhorse imaging tool. It will capture high-resolution color pictures and video of the Martian landscape, which scientists will study and laypeople will gawk at.

          MastCam consists of two camera systems mounted on a mast that rises above Curiosity’s main body, so the instrument will have a good view of the Red Planet environment as the rover chugs through it. MastCam images will also help the mission team drive and operate Curiosity.’

        • In reply to #10 by brown dwarf:

          When I said record in real time I meant a smooth recording like what you would actually see if you were standing on the surface

          Curiosity Rover

          The MastCam system provides multiple spectra and true-color imaging with two cameras.[56] The cameras can take true-color images at 1600×1200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed, video at 720p (1280×720).

          Also

          Each camera has eight gigabytes of flash memory, which is capable of storing over 5,500 raw images, and can apply real time lossless data compression.[56] The cameras have an autofocus capability that allows them to focus on objects from 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) to infinity.

  3. CURIOSITY RADIO LINK

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_%28rover%29

    Communications

    The rover (Curiosity) also has two UHF radios,[29] the signals of which the 2001 Mars Odyssey satellite is capable of relaying back to Earth. An average of 14 minutes, 6 seconds will be required for signals to travel between Earth and Mars.[39] Curiosity can communicate with Earth directly at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but the bulk of the data transfer should be relayed through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey orbiter. Data transfer speeds between Curiosity and each orbiter may reach 2 Mbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is only able to communicate with Curiosity for about eight minutes per day

    • In reply to #12 by keyplayer88:

      CURIOSITY RADIO LINK

      but the bulk of the data transfer should be relayed through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey orbiter.

      These are both quite old satellites and could fail quite soon.

      This link has a few details and a potted history.

      http://historicspacecraft.com/Probes-Mars.html#MRO

      The American Mars Odyssey orbiter was launched on 7 April 2001

      The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on an Atlas V-401 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Liftoff occurred on 12 August 2005.

      MRO entered Martian orbit on 10 March 2006. The spacecraft continues to operate.

      BTW: If you put > in front of quotes and double-line spaces after them, they are highlighted in italic.

  4. In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #12 by keyplayer88:

    CURIOSITY RADIO LINK

    but the bulk of the data transfer should be relayed through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey orbiter.

    These are both quite old satellites and could fail quite soon.

    Thanks for the reply.Alan4

    I am sure NASA will continue to improve their technology. The point I was trying to make is that bandwidth is currently quite limited, which is why ‘real time video’ is not feasible right now. Also that time delays make ‘real time’ viewing impossible anyway, and as your previous post says regarding MAVEN,

    ‘its highly elliptical orbit will limit its usefulness as a relay for operating landers on the surface’.

    Curiosity carries UHF transmitters, which of course cannot be changed. Any system is limited by the technology used and UHF radio has its limits. All of which in no way implies poor technology, but simply acknowledges the limitations of the physical systems in use.

    I don’t doubt that really excellent data will be received from Curiosity, but this does not necessitate broadcasting ‘LIVE’ from planet Mars, as implied by others in earlier posts.

    Thanks for the formatting hints.

    Did Tubbs do right?

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