Ever wondered how the Mars Curiosity Rover takes a selfie?
First, a few facts about the cameras on the Curiosity Rover.
The Curiosity Rover was launched from Earth on November 26, 2011 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and landed in Gale Crater on Mars on August 5, 2012. Its mission: to study the geology and environment of selected areas in the crater and analyze samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground. To accomplish that mission, it is equipped with 17 cameras, some shooting in color and others only in B&W. It has since been busy learning about Mars, taking pictures, drilling rocks, sampling soil, and sending the pictures and data all the 225 million km (140 million miles) way back to Earth.
Why some color and some B&W cameras?
It uses the (science) color cameras mainly to take 2MP resolution visual images of rocks for scientists. The color of the rocks help scientists identify the composition of the soil and the rocks.
Its (engineering) B&W cameras are mainly for navigation and are only a measly 1MP in resolution because that’s all the resolution and information it really needs to safely navigate around rocks and obstacles.
(You are not complaining anymore about your digital camera not having enough MP resolution now, are you?)
In fact, it can even take videos, but because they can add up in file size real quick, it takes only a few of them.
How does it take a panorama [2:21]?
The same way you take a panorama picture on your cellphone or digital camera: one picture at a time and moving around the scene, then stitching them together.
How does it take a selfie [2:45]?
By using a selfie stick. Ha, ha, got you!
In fact, that’s not altogether a wrong answer. It does have a swivelling 2m (6.6ft) long robotic arm. Because its arm can also fold, it is able to always keep itself behind the camera as it does a 360° sweep around the rover. When it stitches all these images together, you don’t see its arm and it looks like someone else (a Martian?) took the picture!