8 August 2012

Sol 1 to 2: MAHLI landscape, HiRISE Crime Scene

Posted by Ryan Anderson

So, remember the awesome new data that I was geeking out about at the end of my previous post, but which I couldn’t share? Well, it has now been discussed at a press conference, so I’m free to share it. First up, here’s the image that made the ChemCam team shout out loud because of its sheer awesomeness:

Front hazcam view showing Mt. Sharp towering in the distance. Note that this is the view from the worst camera on the rover. I can't wait for the navcam and Mastcam panoramas!

And in the same doenlink, we started to receive thumbnail images from the descent imager (MARDI). When you put them together, they make a great movie of Curiosity’s trip to the surface, starting with a stunning shot of the heat shield glinting in the afternoon sunlight as it falls away from the rover, and ends with the dust billowing under the blast of the skycrane’s rockets:

So, that’s what I was so excited about yesterday right before I collapsed with exhaustion. After sleeping for a few hours, I woke up in the evening, only to find that I had left my computer charger at JPL. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so after cooking some pasta and eating a proper dinner, I headed back to JPL. I stuck around for a while, trying my best to figure out where we had landed based on the MARDI thumbnails of the descent. I got it narrowed down somewhat, but heard rumors that the guys in charge of localization had pinpointed us to within a few meters. Once I had satisfied myself with a rough estimate of where we landed, I headed back to the apartment for some more sleep.

I woke up at around 6am. My alarm had been set for 4:30… pm instead of am. So, I frantically got dressed and drove to JPL, arriving about a minute before the first required meeting of the sol for my shift. I sat through the meeting, and then at the end was notified that I was released from my role since ChemCam wasn’t doing anything. That meant that I could run over to the other building and catch the end of the science discussion meeting. I’m glad I did: science discussion is way more fun than uplink meetings!

After that, I actually had some free time. First, I tuned into the morning press conference, where we got to see two amazing new images. First was the image taken by the hand lens imager (MAHLI), pointing off to the north from its stowed position. The dust cover was on, so everything looked faded and orange, but it is still the first color image from the ground of Gale. You can see the crater rim in the distance and rocks in the foreground:

The first MAHLI image superimposed on topographic and HiRISE data.

The other awesome image from the press conference was this one, dubbed the “crime scene photo”

HiRISE image of MSL and its various pieces of hardware on the surface of Mars. The distance between Curiosity and the skycrane is about 650 meters. Note how close we are to three different geologic units!

So, that pretty much pinpoints where we landed! The dark shading around the rover is where the dust was disturbed by the skycrane’s rockets, and the impact of the various bits and pieces look dark for the same reason. This is a great spot to land: look at the geologic diversity just hundreds of meters away!

After the press conference I stayed in the ChemCam room and worked on my abstract for AGU which is due tomorrow, and also started thinking about what sorts of nearby targets I want to advocate that we analyze.

Finally, I called it a day and headed back to the apartment, where I exercised a bit and ate some dinner, and continued to work on AGU abstracts, and of course this blog entry. I am getting up rather early tomorrow (I’m even going to set my alarm correctly this time!) so I had better call it a night. Looking forward to another great day on Mars and some more spectacular images tomorrow!