A Closer Look at the Mars Perseverance Rover’s Incredible Cameras

The Mars Perseverance Rover, which already has despatched again some incredible images from the Crimson Planet, is supplied with 23 cameras designed for a bunch of duties. Its foremost digital camera array is especially spectacular, capable of see particulars as small as a tip of a pencil shut by, and the dimension of an almond from a soccer discipline away in 3D.

The cameras on Perseverance have three main improvements over those who flew on Curiosity: they’ll take shade photos, they’ve a wider discipline of view, they usually have extra decision. In complete, these three elements significantly enhance the high quality of photos taken by even the rover’s engineering cameras.

The diagram beneath reveals an approximation of the place the many various cameras are on the rover. There are 9 engineering cameras, seven science cameras, and 7 entry, descent, and touchdown cameras. Included on this batch is the Mastcam-Z, probably the rover’s most spectacular digital camera.

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The Mastcam-Z is what the mast-mounted digital camera system known as and it’s truly two cameras that work collectively to supply 3D stereoscopic photos. It may well zoom, focus, and take footage and video at excessive velocity to permit for detailed examinations of distant objects. It’s the highest-resolution shade imaging system but despatched to Mars and is the first digital camera system despatched to the Crimson Planet with built-in zoom functionality.

Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

“Mastcam-Z is a multi-color, stereo imaging system on NASA’s Perseverance rover,” the digital camera’s description reads.

Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

“Mastcam-Z makes use of a pair of focusable, zoomable cameras on the rover’s mast to picture in ‘human-like’ purple/inexperienced/blue colours and in ultraviolet and infrared colours simply past the vary of human shade notion. At most zoom, the cameras see options as small as the tip of a pencil shut by, and the dimension of an almond from a soccer discipline away.”

Based on the technical specifications, the Mastcam-Z is able to resolving between about 150 microns per pixel (0.15 millimeter or 0.0059 inches) to 7.four millimeters (0.three inches) per pixel relying on the distance.

The zooming mechanism itself is an engineering marvel, as proven beneath:

As defined by Redditor redmercuryvendor, the optical design of the Mastcam-Z shares similarities to the zoom lenses on shopper cameras, however the zoom mechanism itself is completely different.

“Zoom lenses for normal cameras run inside the helicoids, that are seen right here too (the curved tracks that information the lens mounts), however they run on simply the helicoids,” redmercuryvendor explains. “A little grease and a few lubricious bushing supplies they usually slide out and in simply positive. However as anybody who’s performed with an previous lens has most likely discovered, even a easily working lens will degrade and grow to be robust to maneuver over time as the grease breaks down and turns into sticky, and ultimately a lens can ‘lock up’ and require disassembly for cleansing and regreasing.”

Clearly, this could be a problem when the lens can’t be repaired as a result of it’s on a distinct planet.

“You’ll be able to’t do this on Mars, so as an alternative the lens parts run on precision linear rails with recirculating ball slides, and the focusing helicoids simply carry out the job of transferring the lenses, not supporting them too. The ball slides may be manufactured and operated with none grease, so there isn’t any risky materials to degrade in the skinny environment.”

The 2 equivalent cameras (aside from small variations in the shade filters) that make up the Mastcam-Z digital camera system are mounted about 2 meters (6.5 toes) above the floor, on the rover’s Distant Sensing Mast separated by 9.5 inches to supply stereo imaginative and prescient.

Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

“Every digital camera consists of 4 main subsystems: A digital CCD sensor and electronics field, an 8-position filter wheel, a multi-lens zoom meeting, and a single-lens focusing meeting,” the Mastcam-Z’s description reads. “A quick gentle shade helps scale back scattered gentle in the optics. A separate Digital Electronics Meeting is mounted inside the rover, and two calibration targets are mounted on the rover deck.”

Beneath is a cross-sectional CAD view and ray-trace diagram of the Mastcam-Z optics. You’ll be able to see two small motors that drive the zoom and focus mechanisms.

Beneath is a CAD animation and cross-sectional view of the focus mechanism in motion:

Mastcam-Z can zoom from wide-angle to telephoto and take pictures in as much as 11 distinctive colours. It shoots in a 1600×1200 pixel vary and might zoom from 26-110mm in addition to rotate a full 360-degrees. The digital camera has a most aperture of f/7 at the vast finish and f/10 at the telephoto finish.

Picture Credit score: Jim Bell/ASU

For a way of scale, NASA uploaded a picture of the two sides of the Mastcam-Z digital camera subsequent to a pocket knife:

Picture credit score: MSSS/ASU

The Mastcam-Z is in place for 3 main causes. First, Perseverance will use it to characterize the general panorama geomorphology, processes, and the nature of the geologic document (mineralogy, texture, construction, and stratigraphy) at the rover discipline web site. Second, it’s going to assess present atmospheric and astronomical situations and interactions between the floor and the environment. Lastly, it’s going to present operational help and scientific context for rover navigation and imaging help for the different devices and instruments.

This wind-carved rock seen in first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument reveals simply how a lot element is captured by the digital camera techniques. | Picture credot: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU

You’ll be able to peruse the outcomes of the imaging know-how all through the Mars mission as NASA continues to add photos from Perseverance here.

Picture credit: Header picture by MSSS/ASU

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