All week, NASA's newest rover to land on the red planet has been beaming back new photos. There has been a constant stream of information being reported on a daily basis, but here are just a few of the most interesting nuggets about Curiosity and the best photos picked out by TheBlaze from this week.
- Out of pocket funding: The $1.8 billion rover for the $2.5 billion mission actually had features slashed for budgetary reasons, but one scientist ponied up his own cash to include a camera he built. The Smithsonian's Air and Space Magazine reports Mike Malin found funding leftover from another project and picked up the rest needed out-of-pocket for the MARDI camera, which was almost not included in the mission, to film the rover's descent."So I paid for the rover camera. The Phoenix Project paid to put it on the MSL rover and NASA headquarters said 'ok under those circumstances do it,'" KUTV reports Malin saying.
- "Crime Scene Photo": The Los Angeles Times reported one of the first photos sent back by Curiosity showing a "blotch" in the horizon. Naturally, speculation as to what that blotch could be arose. A later, higher resolution of the photo showed no blotch though. Some thought the initial blotch was dirt on the lens or a small dust storm, while others say it was it was the rover's "chariot crash-landing a safe distance away." Engineers said the statistical probability of it being the latter "would be an insane coincidence." But further analysis from the "crime scene photo," which showed the location where all the pieces of Curiosity's landing equipment dropped, led other scientists to say it can't be ruled out as a possibility:
New images scheduled to arrive in the next two weeks will give engineers a higher-fidelity understanding of the landing and the orientation of the pieces on the ground. But there's a chance that the mystery of the photograph may never be solved — it was a one-time event, over in seconds, and there will never be new images of that moment.
"It's circumstantial evidence — but it's pretty good circumstantial evidence," said Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor at the Planetary Society, a nonprofit Pasadena organization that advocates for space research and exploration. "It looks like we may actually have seen it, but it's hard to know."
This video shows just where everything landed:
- Full color panoramic: The rover sent back the first 360-degree, full-color photos of the Gale Crater where Curiosity landed. It is the sharpest view yet of the landing site, but better quality images are still being downloaded. "It's beautiful just to finally see the colors in the terrain," said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who is part of the mission.
- Here's the coolest high-resolution image of the Martian horizon:
- Self-portrait: Curiosity took this 360-degree "Picasso-like" self-portrait with its navigation cameras.
- Blast marks: Using the rover to make observations of the red planet is a primary goal for NASA, but it is also reviewing how well the precarious landing technique used for the car-size equipment went. They're observing things like the blast marks that were made from the rockets during the descent. The grey blotches in the photos below represent the blast marks.
- Watch the rover's heat shield drop off in this compilation of thumbnail images from the Mars Descent Imager:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.