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23 'eyes' & panoramic 3D images: Meet NASA's Mars 2020 Rover

03 Novembre 2017

These "eyes" will provide dramatic views during the rover's descent on Mars and be the first to capture images of a parachute as it opens on another planet, the US space agency said.

"The cameras on the Mars 2020 rover will include more color and 3D imaging than on Curiosity", added Arizona State University researcher Dr. Jim Bell, principal investigator for 2020's Mastcam-Z.

For two years, NASA scientists have been plotting the path of the Curiosity Mars rover using a Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset and software called OnSight. Once it's out-and-about, an internal camera will peer closely at rock samples.

Furthermore, even the inside of the rover's body will have a camera that will analyze samples as they are collected and left on the planet's surface, which will be collected by a future mission.

Some of the new rover cameras will also have improved 3-D imaging capabilities.

In the definition of the Mastcam-Z, the "Z" means "ZOOM" which will be rover's main eye. Electronics built into the camera allows for more 3D images, colour and even high-speed video. He went on to add, "They're useful for both long-range and near-field science targets".

As NASA announced earlier this week, the probe will be equipped with no less than 23 different cameras.

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The rover is now under construction at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and doesn't have a name yet aside from "Mars 2020". They represent a steady progression since Pathfinder: after that mission, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers were designed with 10 cameras each, including on their landers; Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover has 17.

Previous rovers were built with 1 megapixel engineering cameras, used for planning drives and to avoid hazards, that took monochrome images.

"Our previous Navcams would snap multiple pictures and stitch them together", JPL's Colin McKinney said. And because the lenses will be wider, the 2020 rover will be able to capture a broader view of the landscape.

"We were expecting to do that mission on just tens of megabits each Mars day, or sol", said mission scientist Justin Maki.

The Mars 2020 will have seven science cameras and seven entry, descent and landing cameras, NASA said.

On the new rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel colour images, NASA said. The agency intends to use spacecraft that already orbiting Mars to help in the Mars 2020 mission. "The cameras are also able to reduce motion blur, so they can take photos while the rover is on the move".

23 'eyes' & panoramic 3D images: Meet NASA's Mars 2020 Rover