If you think Curiosity has incredible space vision, just wait until the Mars 2020 Rover sets its 23 eyes on the Red Planet.
Things with 23 eyes are usually Lovecraftian or living at the bottom of the ocean, but Mars 2020’s incredi-vision will come from just as many cameras that will be able to see in both macro detail and jaw-dropping panoramas as well as study the atmosphere, join forces with the rover’s other instruments, spot obstacles and possibly unearth more secrets hidden in that reddish dust.
NASA has seriously leveled up its camera technology since Mars Pathfinder landed in 1997. Sojourner, the first rover to touch down on Mars, had only three eyes, and an additional pair of photographic eyeballs looked over the barren landcape from a mast on the lander. Cameras have now gotten more advanced than any sci-fi movie in the late ‘90s could have imagined. Just look at your smartphone.
Mars 2020 has vision that goes over and above 20/20. Entry, descent and landing cameras will record the rover’s entry into the Martian atmosphere, descent and touchdown (you’ll get to see the first video ever of a parachute opening on an alien planet). Its Cachecam will keep an eye on rock samples deposited into the body, while its SkyCam will look upwards as part of a suite of weather instruments that will study the clouds and atmosphere.
With advanced computer vision, the Lander Vision System Camera will be the mastermind behind the landing with its never-before used terrain relative navigation technology. Enhanced hi-res engineering cameras will see wider fields of view in more vibrant color than Curiosity’s—and in 3D.
Mastcam-Z is arguably the 2020 Rover’s most awesome robotic eye (the “Z” is for “zoom”). It’s like Curiosity’s MASTCAM on steroids, with a 3:1 zoom lens and stereoscopic cameras that can handle more 3D images. Zoom vision will give it the superpowered ability to see closeups of soil texture and erosion from over 300 feet away.
The engineering cameras on the 2020 Rover can do something even cooler than beam 20-megapixel color images back to Earth. Previous Navcams didn’t have the advantage of such a wide FOV, so they would have to take multiple photos that they would then piece together, but NASA’s new iterations will be able to capture an instant panoramic view without so much unnecessary panning and editing. An upgrade that greatly reduces motion blur means clearer photos as the rover crawls over the rusty terrain of Mars.
So what will all this futuristic tech find? Probably more things that will blow your mind, even if they’re not aliens.
(via NASA JPL)