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“How many cameras are on the Curiosity?”

The Four-Year-Old’s LEGO-scale Curiosity with two of the ten cameras installed.

In the midst of adding one of two planned cameras to her LEGO-scale model of the Mars Rover Curiosity, The Four-Year-Old paused to ask:

“How many cameras are on the Curiosity?”

After hunting around on the web for a while, we found an indirect reference to the cameras on the Mars Rover Curiosity in this FAQ from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In discussing how the cameras are protected from dust and debris during the building of the Rover, its launch into space, and subsequent landing on Mars, the author inadvertently let slip that there are at least four types of cameras on-board Curiosity: Hazcam, Mastcam, Navcam, and MAHLI cameras.

Armed with this preliminary data, we marched straight to Wikipedia where we learned…

Hazcam stands for Hazard Avoidance Cameras

Two pairs of these aptly named black and white 3D beauties have been installed on the four corners of the Mars Rover to enable the Curiosity to keep an eye out for possible hazards, avoid obstacles, and safely position its robotic arm as it explores the Martian surface.  Total Hazcam cameras: 4

Filmmaker James Cameron helped design the Mastcams

The two Mastcam cameras on the Curiosity can take 1600×1200 pixel true color images or high-definition video at speeds of up to 10 frames per second. Total Mastcam cameras: 2.

Navcams really is short for Navigation cameras

And they do what you think. Instead of being mounted on the corners of the Rover, however, the Navcams are mounted on the mast. Each black and white Navcam is capable of 3-D imagery and has a 45 degree field of view. Total Navcam cameras: 2

NASA’s acronym-making ability broke down a bit when it came to naming the MAHLI

The MAHLI (or Mars Hand Lens Imager) mounted on the end of the Rover’s arm will be used to take high-resolution, microscopic, true color pictures of rocks and soil on the planet’s surface. Total MAHLI cams: 1

MSL Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)

Not willing to miss a minute of the mission, NASA tacked on a 10th camera to record the Rover’s 2-minute descent onto the Red Planet. When the Mars Rover is about 3.7 km from the planet’s surface, the MSL Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will begin taking 1600×1200 color images of the descent. The MARDI will continue snapping pics at about 5 frames per second until the Rover is a mere 5 meters from the ground (or until 2 minutes is up, whichever comes first). Total MARDI cameras: 1.

Yes, I know. Wikipedia.

Of course, I know I have to take any information from Wikipedia with a grain of salt. I hear pretty much anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry at any time. Normally, I just use Wikipedia as a way to figure out how to find the real answer somewhere else. (Clicking through to the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia articles is one of my favorite pastimes.)

However, The Four-Year-Old didn’t want to take the time to read the references today. She wanted to go to the LEGO store.

After all, scientific accuracy required her to add eight more cameras to her LEGO-scale Curiosity, and we didn’t have enough of the right sort of pieces for that. Negotiations are currently underway as to whether black eye stickers and LEGO one-block bricks could be used to construct an acceptable substitute.

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2 Responses to ““How many cameras are on the Curiosity?””

  1. Mid-Week Science News Update: Space ballet | CATERPICKLES

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