NASA JPL sends word today that image processing lab specialists have assembled a billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The 1.3-billion-pixel image is offered with pan and zoom tools here.
It's the first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars at this resolution, and is stitched together from close to 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity, revealing details of the landscape along the rover's route.
"It comes complete with shout-outs to Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson," reports the Washington Post, which dug into the story behind its creation. Half a million views so far, huh? Best NASA PSA ever.
Thomas Hayden at science blog The Last Word On Nothing has a wonderful little interview with Scott Maxwell (@marsroverdriver), who works at JPL as a Mars rover driver. Coolest job ever, right?
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Maxwell at JPL a few weeks before Curiosity touched down, when I accompanied Miles O'Brien on a shoot about MSL for PBS NewsHour. Loved him, and I love how he describes what makes his job so exhilarating:
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I drove her. It was just a few meters along a simple path — we wouldn’t even bother to yawn at it today — but it was magic to me then, as it’s magic to me now. I went home and should have slept, but all I could do was stare at the ceiling, in awe that right then, on Mars, there was a robot doing what I told it to do. It was dead amazing, and that feeling has never left me and I hope it never will.
Read the rest here: SCUBA Diving through the Endless Martian Desert : The Last Word On Nothing.
[Video Link] As the post-landing press conference begins, NASA and JPL MSL leaders high-five and cheer with the Mars rover engineering and flight control team. I shot this last night (on my iPhone, pardon the shakiness) inside the Jet Propulsion Lab, at 11:15pm PDT, about 45 minutes after the rover landed, against all odds, on the surface of Mars.
* Despite the image on the screen behind them, this was not a Microsoft press conference.
What has a marshmallow-shaped lump of plutonium, rock-vaporizing lasers for eyes, and is headed for Mars?
Space reporter Miles O'Brien wrote a lovely farewell to the NASA's rover Spirit on the PBS NewsHour blog today, as NASA ceases attempts to reach the little robot that could.
It discovered silica deposits, carbonates, and evidence for hydrothermal systems and explosive volcanism. Billions of years ago, Spirit's site was a hot, violent place, with hot springs, steam vents, and volcanic explosions, and the little rover managed to suss that out.
But roving on Mars is not easy, and eventually Spirit found some sand that left it stranded. Since the JPL AAA card does not work on Mars, the rover had, in essence, dug its own grave. It was just a matter of time that the batteries would run down for lack of juice from the photovoltaic solar cells.
It is interesting, and somehow fitting, that Spirit was given its last rites on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's historic speech before a joint session of Congress. Kennedy said, "this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
Image, NASA, 2004: A computer-generated model of Spirit's lander at Gusev Crater as engineers and scientists would have expected to see it from a perfect overhead view. The background is a reprojected image taken by the Spirit panoramic camera on Sol 19 (Jan. 21-22, 2004). The top of the image faces north.