Curiosity on Mars: A Busy Robot With a Big Job
The Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory hasn't gotten as much press attention as it deserves, what with random elections and such going on. It's a little quiet now, as it undergoes a "brain transplant" -- its landing software is being replaced remotely with a new version. (And you thought installing Mountain Lion was a big job.)
In the mean time, let's look at some of the most interesting images. This one, taken by the HiRES camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is my favorite so far:
That is a picture of the lander, on its parachute, taken from the MRO around 200 miles above the Martian surface, as it passed over at about a mile per second. Not a bad snapshot, eh?
Here's an enhanced version of the picture:
Of course, we are more interested in the view from the Curiosity lander itself. Here's a low-resolution video of the actual landing:
There will be a high-resolution version eventually -- it takes a long time to transmit the pictures back.
(Oh, and I saw some people complaining that NASA used cheap low-res cameras -- with a particular plaintive cry that they should have just taped an iPhone to it. The technical term for this complaint is "dumb." The first pictures are meant to give quick feedback, ensure things are working, and confirm the landing. They're purposefully low resolution, because it takes much less time to transmit. They're literally thumbnails of the better resolution pictures to come.)
Finally, just before starting the "brain transplant", Curiosity transmitted a full-color, high-resolution panorama. Here's a glimpse, but you're better off following the link to the whole panorama, as it doesn't fit into PJ's format well.