Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 18 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Speedy Data

24 August 2012

We have received all of the full-size MARDI images of MSL's descent, and they have been combined into a video. Watching this, with the audio from the mission support area dubbed in, brought a tear to my eye. The significance of landing successfully on Mars using an entirely new, incredibly complex system, is still sinking in. I am very fortunate to be involved in such an endeavor.

If you are not impressed with the MARDI video, stay tuned: the images were each heavily compressed to allow them to be transmitted to Earth quickly. The MARDI team has started reprocessing the raw images onboard the rover to return higher-quality versions. Of course, it will take a while to transmit all of these larger images to Earth, but the results will be much better than the images we have on the ground today. This is possible because each of the color cameras has its own memory module that is used to store raw (uncompressed) images as they are acquired. The raw images can therefore be reprocessed as desired and then queued up for transmission. This is obviously a nice capability to have, but the MSL team is still learning how to best take advantage of it. As the performance of the radio link to the Mars orbiters continues to improve, data are being received at an unprecedented rate, so we are reprocessing color camera images to take advantage of the better data rate.