Scientists have confirmed that since arriving on NASA’s Perseverance rover in February, the first variable focus camera on Mars is at the top, which adds long-distance measurement capabilities to the robot’s scientific toolkit.
This zoomable imager actually consists of two almost identical cameras that can provide a stereoscopic view and can now capture high-definition video of the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter in the Martian atmosphere later this month.
The Mastcam-Z instrument (Z stands for Zoom) is an upgraded version of the camera on the mast of NASA’s Curiosity rover, adding the function of focusing and magnifying rocks on the Martian surface.
Within a few days of Perseverance landing on February 18, Mastcam-Z took pictures under a series of zoom settings. Jim Bell, the lead researcher of Arizona State University’s Mastcam-Z, said last month that it was “very exciting” to use the instrument early in the mission to prove that everything went as expected.
Bell said in a speech at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference on March 16: “Obviously, members of the scientific team soon salivated over all these images.”
Scientists used a Mastcam-Z camera to take photos of the calibration target to confirm the instrument settings, and then took a wide-angle and telephoto view of the surrounding landscape at the Jezero Crater landing site of the Perseverance.
Photos taken by Mastcam-Z can be stitched together by scientists on Earth to create mosaics, providing a 360-degree high-resolution panorama across the horizon, with a 180-degree field of view from straight down to straight up. The effective focal length of the camera ranges from 26 mm to 110 mm.
Bell said the scientific team tested the resolution of Mastcam-Z by pointing the camera at the Martian rock near the rover. Scientists say that when these cameras are fully zoomed in, they can distinguish features as small as the tip of a pencil near the rover, or as small as an almond outside a football field.
Bell said: “We can also do this with stereo.” Bell said: “We match the eyes from wide-angle to telephoto. This is an improvement in what Mastcam can do with curiosity.” “But it should be. The system is very, very similar, and is also designed and manufactured in collaboration with the Malin Space Science System in San Diego, and can work together.”
The Mastcam-Z camera has color filters that can provide scientists with clues about the composition of distant rocks. Bell likens the role of Mastcam-Z in the mission to “shunting” to help the rover science team select targets for high-fidelity spectrometers and other instruments.
At the highest zoom setting, Mastcam-Z can see the details of the edges of delta sediments accumulated on the dry river that flowed toward the lakes of the Jezero crater billions of years ago. The delta sediments are more than a mile from the current location of the rover and are the main goal of persistence, where scientists hope to find signs of ancient life.
Bell said: “We will eventually get closer to these. Of course, the resolution we get is better than what we get.” Bell said that Mastcam-Z can distinguish between basketball and beach balls at a distance of several kilometers from the delta. Various characteristics.
Bell said that Mastcam-Z will be used for scientific and rover operations.
“We are doing various geomorphology, geology, atmospheric sciences, some astronomical observations… for scientific color multi-spectral imaging, but we also provide a lot of engineering support in terms of driving and (robot) arm placement and helicopter operations, Bell Say.
Bell said that Mastcam-Z can also capture high-definition video, which will be used with NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter test flight later this month.
The Perseverance Rover released a 4-pound (1.8 kg) rotorcraft onto the surface of Mars on Saturday, laying the groundwork for the first of as many as five planned test flights on April 11.
The rover itself will drive to the observation station, near the football field from the helicopter flight area. Managers want to ensure that the experimental drone will not endanger the $2.4 billion rover, and that the drone will attempt its first powered flight in the atmosphere of another planet.
Bell said: “We plan to use our video function and telephoto function because we have to keep a certain distance from the helicopter. “But we will definitely use the helicopter’s Mastcam-Z for video recording. This will be very exciting, and we are looking forward to those truly historical aviation movies. “
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