A Brief History Of Photographers On Mars

This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars early Monday. It was taken through a wide-angle lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras. Larger color images from other cameras are expected later in the week when the rover's mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is one of the first images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars early Monday. It was taken through a wide-angle lens on the left “eye” of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras. Larger color images from other cameras are expected later in the week when the rover’s mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed.

The new Mars rover, Curiosity, has only been on the ground for a few hours and is already dispatching photos. Those square, black-and-white landscape images complement those sent back by Curiosity’s predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity.

Although there was a lot of repetitive imagery that came back from those rovers, NASA pared it down. If you spend enough time sifting through the archives, a certain aesthetic starts to emerge: desolate, monochrome landscapes that almost look like film.

According to NASA, we can expect even better photos from Curiosity. The rover’s mast is equipped with two color cameras with telephoto lenses. They will provide “enough resolution to distinguish a basketball from a football at a distance of seven football fields.”

Before we get there, though, here’s an homage to the artists that came before Curiosity. Curiously, the planet almost looks like it could be Utah …

  • This image taken by Spirit in 2004 shows the tracks it created in the Martian soil.

    NASA/JPL
  • A snapshot of Opportunity's shadow was taken as the rover moved into Endurance Crater in 2004.

    NASA/JPL
  • Opportunity's panoramic camera shows a portion of the Martian rock outcropping, 2004.

    NASA
  • Dunes that resemble the Sahara line the floor of Endurance Crater, 2004.

    NASA/JPL/Cornell
  • Spirit's navigation camera shows the rocky path lying due east of the rover, 2004.

    NASA/JPL
  • Opportunity captures the layered rocks of the "El Capitan" area near the rover's landing site at Meridiani Planum, 2004. (Visible on two of the rocks are the holes drilled by the rover, which provided scientists with a window to this part of the red planet's water-soaked past.)

    NASA/JPL
  • This image shows one of Opportunity's first views of the Martian soil after its successful landing at Meridiani Planum, 2004.

    NASA/JPL
  • Winter clouds — again, almost Earthly — drift across the skies at Endurance Crater, 2004.

    NASA/JPL/Cornell
  • The panoramic cameras on NASA's rovers are about as sensitive as the human eye at night. Spirit accidentally discovered a meteor while attempting to obtain images of Earth in the pre-dawn sky back in 2004.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Texas A&M/SSI
  • While driving eastward toward McCool Hill, the wheels of Spirit churned up the largest amount of bright soil discovered so far in the mission, in 2006. The soil salts may record the past presence of water.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • Opportunity spent about 300 sols (Martian days) during 2006 and 2007 traversing the rim of Victoria Crater. Besides looking for a good place to enter the crater, the rover obtained images of rock outcrops exposed at several cliffs along the way.

    NASA/JPL
  • Opportunity used its navigation camera for this view of tracks the rover left on a drive from one end of a sand ripple to another, 2010.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • This image of Block Island was taken by Opportunity in 2009.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • Opportunity recorded this view of the western edge of Cape York, 2011.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • This image from Opportunity shows the view ahead on the day before the rover reached the rim of Endeavour crater. It was taken during the 2,680th sol of the rover's work on Mars.

    NASA/JPL-Caltech

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