Curiosity: “This is a very low-resolution panorama”

Having survived the seven minutes of terror, and landed successfully at Gale Crater, earlier this week Nasa’s mobile Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the 900kg rover Curiosity, lifted its 2m high camera mast.  And took a look at itself.  [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Then it took a look at its new surroundings.  In colour. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS]

JPL have helpfully put together a video of the panoramic view.

As the BBC spaceman, Jonathan Amos, notes

The low-resolution vista shows at centre the big mountain that lies in the middle of Gale Crater, the deep depression in which the rover landed.

Curiosity’s ultimate goal is to drive towards this peak – informally known as Mount Sharp – to study its rocks.

“This is a very low-resolution panorama,” explained Mike Malin, the principal investigator on the rover’s Mastcam cameras.

“The individual frames are only 144 by 144 pixels. There are 130 of them in there. It took us about an hour and six minutes to take the mosaic.

“For the full-resolution panorama, the data volume will be 64 times larger, [and] the resolution will be eight times better. But this was pretty enough and interesting enough that we thought it was worth sharing with you guys,” he told BBC News.

The colour is what the camera saw. Apart from the process of blending the individual frames, the only modification made was to brighten the image slightly.

Pictures are deliberately acquired underexposed so as not to saturate any bright regions in the field of view.

Here’s a progress report from Mars Science Laboratory team member Jessica Samuels.  Via JPLNews.

Captain Kirk William Shatner is, understandably, enthusiastic.

And, at the Guardian, Dan Gillmor has some thoughts on the digital media savvy Nasa’s excellent self-coverage that are worth reading.

Although the Washington Post, hanging out on Google+, may have gotten there first…