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Curiosity Mars rover could offer stunning views of Red Planet (+video)

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover contains the most advanced robotic cameras ever sent to Mars. If Curiosity lands successfully, it could send back never-before-seen images from the Martian surface.  

Team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory share the challenges of the Curiosity Mars rover's final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars.
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The huge NASA rover slated to land on Mars Sunday night (Aug. 5) is expected to give scientists and laypeople alike some amazing views of the Red Planet.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover, the heart of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, will try to determine if Earth's neighbor is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life. To help address this question, the six-wheeled robot is carrying 10 science instruments — and a wealth of high-tech camera gear.

Like its older Mars rover siblings Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity comes equipped with cameras mounted on a head-like stalk (called the Remote Sensing Mast, or RSM), providing a point of view similar to what a person might experience. Unlike previous rovers, however, Curiosity’s imaging system — called Mastcam — has features that will offer a whole new look at Mars.

Developed by the San Diego company Malin Space Science Systems, Mastcam is composed of two separate cameras that sit side by side, not unlike a pair of eyes, just below the ChemCam instrument on Curiosity’s "head." Mastcam will allow color images to be captured directly. [Curiosity Rover: 11 Amazing Facts]

"It will take color in the same way as a consumer digital camera,” said Michael Ravine, advanced projects manager at Malin. "It’s as 'true' as your phone camera."

In addition, Mastcam can capture stereoscopic images in infrared, plus a whole range of wavelengths that are of importance to scientific goals.


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