NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover, which launched to Mars in 2011, is equipped with a set of 12 engineering cameras. These cameras are build-to-print copies of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) cameras, which were sent to Mars in 2003. The engineering cameras weigh <300 grams each and use <3 W of power. Images returned from the engineering cameras are used to navigate the rover on the Martian surface, deploy the rover robotic arm, and ingest samples into the rover sample processing system. The navigation cameras (Navcams) are mounted to a pan/tilt mast and have a 45-degree square field of view (FOV) with a pixel scale of 0.82 mrad/pixel.

The hazard avoidance cameras (Hazcams) are body-mounted to the rover chassis in the front and rear of the vehicle and have a 124-degree square FOV with a pixel scale of 2.1 mrad/pixel. All of the cameras utilize a frame-transfer CCD (charge-coupled device) with a 1024×1024 imaging region and red/near IR bandpass filters centered at 650 nm. The MSL engineering cameras are grouped into two sets of six: one set of cameras is connected to rover computer “A” and the other set is connected to rover computer “B”. The MSL rover carries 8 Hazcams and 4 Navcams.

This work was done by Justin N. Maki, David L. Thiessen, Ali M. Pourangi, Peter A. Kobzeff, Steven W. Lee, Arsham Dingizian, and Mark A. Schwochert of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-48550


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This article first appeared in the November, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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