MSL camera

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Last night, NASA successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, sending back its first picture to international acclaim. We’ve seen a couple of other small images beam back, but the question all us gearheads want to know is: what cameras do they have on board? Thankfully, NASA loves to tell us this stuff.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, aka the Curiosity) has two mast cameras, as seen here. One has a fixed 34mm f/8 lens that covers a 15° field of view, covering 1200×1200 pixels on a 1600 by 1200 CCD. The other is a fixed 100mm f/10 lens, with a 5.1° field of view on an identical sensor. You can see some pre-launch images taken with them here.

These cameras won’t start showing their stuff until later this week. They’ll transmit color images as they have Bayer Pattern Filter CCDs, and have adjustable filters to capture different wavelengths of light:

The cameras can also capture 720p video, full 360° panoramas, and even use both lenses to capture 3D images. This information won’t be broadcast home instantly as the files are pretty large for such a long trip — the Rover has 8GB of onboard storage, and will transmit thumbnails back first, so that NASA can request the images it really wants to see.

That’s an impressive amount of hardware to be controlling across the vast gulfs of space, and the shots that have come back — as simple as they are, have touched an awful lot of people.

[via Reddit]