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One Mars Probe Photographs Another 146

sighted writes "In one of the more remarkable shots ever taken by robotic space explorers, the Opportunity Mars rover has been photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter ." From the article: "Shown in the image are 'Duck Bay,' the eroded segment of the crater rim where Opportunity first arrived at the crater; 'Cabo Frio,' a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay; and 'Cape Verde,' another promontory to the north. When viewed at the highest resolution, this image shows the rover itself, wheel tracks in the soil behind it, and the rover's shadow, including the shadow of the camera mast. After this image was taken, Opportunity moved to the very tip of Cape Verde to perform more imaging of the interior of the crater."
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One Mars Probe Photographs Another

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:04PM (#16340171) Journal
    Yeah, I know how the probes feel, every now and then I'll run into one of my grade school classmates thousands of miles away from where we went to school.

    We shake hands and take pictures of each other.

    I wonder if the probes experience the same awkward silence after you've asked them how they're doing and feign interest about what they've been up to. I'll bet they both broke out, "Well, I'll let you go, you must be so busy and what with having the whole rest of the planet to photograph....but it was nice meeting you! And out here of all places! I mean with you an orbiter and I a rover, who would have thought we would have been assigned to the same planet?! It's a small universe afterall!"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      An analysis of probe communications reveals that they are now uploading their pictures of each other to their MySpace profiles.
      Look, they even used that cliched "MySpace angle" where you shoot the camera down from above.
  • Moo (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chacham ( 981 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:04PM (#16340173) Homepage Journal
    Opportunity Mars rover: I can't believe it, it's like a dream. What's wrong?
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: I just had a terrible thought: what if this is a dream?
    Opportunity Mars rover: Well then photograph me quick before you wake up.
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:05PM (#16340185) Homepage Journal
    Wow, impressive resolution for such a remote platform. Of course the resolution of the current US spy satellites is about three times better (10cm optimal), but those things are the size of a school bus and regardless, it is impressive what you can see with 30cm resolution.

    Does anybody know if the Mars Reconnaissance orbiter is limited to the visible spectrum, or does it have multispectral capabilities?

    P.S. I am sure the Google folks will want these data to update Google Mars. :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by symie5 ( 1001116 )

      Wow, impressive resolution for such a remote platform. Of course the resolution of the current US spy satellites is about three times better (10cm optimal), but those things are the size of a school bus and regardless, it is impressive what you can see with 30cm resolution.

      I'm willing to bet US spy (esp. military) satellites can have much better resolution than 10cm...I work for a GIS company, and we often work with satellite imagery at 5cm resolution. I believe, by the way, the MRO does have multispectral

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mopomi ( 696055 )
        Try 544 channels at ~18 m/pixel. []
        • by symie5 ( 1001116 )
          Am I thinking of the same hardware as you? I'm talking about the MRO Mars Color Imager...

          Here []
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mopomi ( 696055 )
            Ah. No, I'm thinking of CRISM, the spectrometer, also on MRO.

            MARCI is for weather monitoring (it will be very useful for knowing where there are clouds and haze and avoiding targetting HiRISE there).

            There's also CTX, the context imager, clocking in at ~6m/pixel.

            Lots and lots of good data is going to come from this mission.
      • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *
        I seriously doubt the US spy satellites can get much better than 10cm with optics as we are now pushing the limits of theoretical optical resolution there (do the math). If you are working with 5cm resolution, those data are not coming from satellites, but rather airborne platforms. Perhaps you mean 5m resolution?

        • by symie5 ( 1001116 )
          No, it's 5cm satellite imagery. :) Amazing stuff, believe me. I was stunned when I first saw the HUGE files in such incredible detail.
          • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *
            I don't buy it...... sorry, but my understanding of physics precludes that possibility. Can you send me a link/reference?

            • by symie5 ( 1001116 )
              Our largest contracts are military...I wish I could send you more (seriously, I do), but I would like to keep my job. :)

              By the way, I like your site (simple, well organized...very satisfying design).
              • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

                by BWJones ( 18351 ) *
                By the way, I like your site (simple, well organized...very satisfying design).

                Thanks. I've tried to keep it simple with no ads to clutter the experience.

              • by Wavicle ( 181176 )
                Wait wait wait... Are you saying that you are working with UNCLASSIFIED satellite photography with a resolution of 5cm? You couldn't tell us the resolution if the imagery were classified. Satellite resolution is one of those *AHEM* types of classified info (tells our opponents what type of counter-measures to employ). You're worried about your job and you just leaked something like this? The limit of confirmed resolution, to the best of my knowledge, is 10cm. Are you SURE you're not working with aerial pho
                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by symie5 ( 1001116 )
                  I'm not "leaking" anything sensitive, so no worries about my job. :-)

                  However, all the heckling was bothering the hell out of me so I had to go back and double-check my sources, and I apologize; I believe I stand mistaken...the first 2-inch res imagery to which I referred was indeed aerial photography (frown), and a secondary image to which I referred as being awestruck by was a 10cm res image (according to a colleague) sincere apologies to BWJones. I am humbled.

                  Oh, and thanks, Wavicle, for pro
      • by Zarquon ( 1778 )
        The current highest resolution commercial satellite imagery is 60 cm/pixel or so, from QuickBird-2. Eros B1 does 70 cm; IKONOS, OrbView-3 and some others do 1m. These are all nadir resolutions, of course. If you image further from the satellite path, your resolution suffers accordingly.

        There are plans for 40 and 50 cm birds (GeoEye-1, Worldview-1/2) but they haven't been launched yet.

        If you're working with commercial 5 cm data, you're working with aerial photography, not satellite imagery, and 5 cm is on th
    • by hubie ( 108345 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:40PM (#16342217)
      The pictures are amazing, but not within the context of spy satellites. The MRO orbit is only 250 to 300 km above the surface, which isn't even considered a LEO orbit on Earth.

      Let's see, 30 cm resolution at 300 km works out to be a microradian angular resolution. Hubble has a resolution of 0.1 arcsec, which is like 0.5 microradians, so I suppose if you put Hubble at MRO's orbit then it would see about a factor of two better, whereas a naively one might assume a factor of 4.8 times better given that the aperture sizes on Hubble and HIRISE are 2.4 and 0.5 meters respectively. That is probably a bit of apples to oranges because I don't know in what context the Hubble resolution is. The HIRISE says it is 30 cm per pixel at 300 km, but the Hubble number I found just states it as the basic telescope resolution without mentioning whether they are talking about an Airy disk size, Rayleigh criterion, or whatever. For what it is worth, both the basic Hubble (without instruments) and HIRISE both run at f/24, so their blur spots would be comparable, so if you put the same detector behind them, they would have the same resolution.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JungleBoy ( 7578 )
      About 5 years ago I attended a technical workshop at JPL in Pasadena, CA. One of the presentations I went to was on new features added to the GeoTIFF image format. It was given by a contract software engineer for the DoD. The part the made me raise an eyebrow was when he was discussing being able to create multi-petabyte geotiff images through virtuallization/referencing in the format. He made the off hand comment that the entire planet at 1cm resolution is about 1PB, and his geotiff extensions could handle
    • Actually, the resolution of the HiRISE camera could be even better because Mars' very thin atmosphere causes far less atmospheric refraction issues than imaging Earth from LEO. That picture of Opportunity was done probably with the camera not fully calibrated; properly calibrated the HiRISE camera could probably resolve objects as small as 30 cm across in the right conditions.
  • Full View (Score:5, Informative)

    by dankstick ( 788385 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:05PM (#16340187) Homepage
  • Depression (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joerdie ( 816174 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:07PM (#16340195)
    This makes me sad. We now have so much equipment over there doing all this great stuff and no people. I wish there could be another space race. (without the threat of nukes.)
    • Re:Depression (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:17PM (#16340339) Homepage
      This makes me happy. We're not wasting many billions of dollars on another "Gee, whiz, we went there!" action before we have brought launch costs down enough to make a Mars base sustainable in the long-run. Instead, we're using extremely effective robotic probes for the tiniest fraction of the cost as a stopgap.
      • Re:Depression (Score:4, Interesting)

        by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:46PM (#16341547)
        Wasting billions of dollars? You have a strange idea of where money goes. Those billions of dollars that if spent on a space race would ultimately increase the size of our economy (national and global) by up to three fold (if I remember my Econ 101 class correctly). That amplifies the affect of the money and really allows that money to now benefit many more people, that it would if we spent it directly on, say, some kind of welfare assistance. Of course it's the disparity that we should worry about. But still. It's not like our money goes into space with the rockets.
        • by njchick ( 611256 )
          That only works as intended is a very strong economy compared to the rest of the world. Otherwise, the taxes are increased and the business goes to better places, like China. You are left with companies that can produce Mars rockets, but cannot produce even simplest things for a competitive price. And please don't forget the internal debt.
        • And you , sir, have a strange idea of economics...

          • by caseih ( 160668 )
            With the exception of the problem of disparity and wealth distribution, everything I have said is true. Spending one dollar in the economy really does generate several times that in effect. It's similar to depositing a dollar in the bank. Due to how money flow works, one dollar in the bank increases the total money supply in an economy by three times that (depending on the reserve rate). The economy as a whole is similar to a bank, in that money is in use in several places at once. I cannot say what th
            • by Eccles ( 932 )

              A dollar spent on the space program is a dollar not spent on something else, nothing more.

              GDP is all about getting people working productively. The more people are working productively, the more GDP. The higher the unemployment, or the more people who are doing inefficient support work, the worse off your GDP. Money is just a system of measure and exchange. If you spend money on a space program, then your product is knowledge, but there are other things that you haven't product. But there's no
              • by caseih ( 160668 )
                Yes, very good points. So the argument is about whether or not spending money in the space program brings about more economic productivity overall. I believe it can. Especially now that certain parts of the tech industry are going off-shore. Despite the consumer electronics production boom overseas (where the majority of our consumer spending seems to end up), high-tech aviation technology is still largely an American thing. Thus spending money on space and aerospace is a good thing for America, in my
            • The size of a economy is the amount of wealth that its people have. You don't automaticaly increase it by trowing wealth out of the planet (of course, well done science pays well, but it is not your point).

              And, yes, most investiments pay off some amount (not all of them, like you assume), but government investments tend to pay much less than private ones, it is even usual that they have negative pay-offs (that's why communism didn't work). The main reasons that government spents benefits the economy is bec

        • Don't get me wrong, I think the scientific space program is great, well worth the money, with many tangible benefits.

          But the logic of increasing the size of our economy is flawed, see the following for a treatment of the issue.


          in practice, a space program is nothing like a broken window, the technology and science it produces well exceeds the cost, but the act of spending the money alone isn't where the economy derives its benefits.
      • Well, I guess "Gee whiz, we went there" is hard to value scientifically and altruistically, but I know a lot of people who spend thousands of dollars just so they can say "Gee whiz, we went there" for a vacation when they could've just bought a couple post cards.

        Not that I think of mankind exploring the solar system in person as merely vacation or a distraction for our collective societal mind. However, I do think that such purpose justifies the investment at least as much as the $billions spent every ye
    • Actually, the threat of nukes is already here and several nations are warming up for the space race. The only question remaining to be answered is whether the US will be able to afford to participate by the time it happens.
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:09PM (#16340233) Homepage Journal
    Ok, I'll admit, my first thought on seeing the picture was Oh. My. Gawd. That's a picture of something we put on another *planet*, a little red dot in the sky. Then I started rummaging through the stock phrases about the future of Man and stuff like that.

    But one actual question that comes to mind -- now that the Opportunity team has high-resolution pictures of their baby's room, will they change where they send him to play? For example, could they see that rock just south of the dark "Cape Verde" formation? And looking back, if they'd had pictures like these to work with, would they have approached the crater from a different angle?
    • But one actual question that comes to mind -- now that the Opportunity team has high-resolution pictures of their baby's room, will they change where they send him to play? For example, could they see that rock just south of the dark "Cape Verde" formation? And looking back, if they'd had pictures like these to work with, would they have approached the crater from a different angle?

      I would assume the Rover teams are using the best imagery to hand - and MRO is only one source of that imagery. We've been

    • by mopomi ( 696055 )
      I'm not sure of whether they would have approached from a different angle, but they've already used the HiRISE images to plan their trek to where Opportunity is now (it's no longer in the spot as seen in the HiRISE image).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iamlucky13 ( 795185 )
      Would they change where they send him to play? Probably not. Current planning has been conducted based on images taken my the Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor probes. The best images of the area from those probes are around 1/4 the resolution (1-2 meters/pixel) if I remember right. Still, they show the major features and led to the decision to try to reach the crater.

      If you look at the path the rover took from Endurance crater to Victoria, it's pretty much a straight line. The goal for the last 6 mo
  • Interesting how the some of the most popular photos from these missions are pictures of other man-made objects. Think of the ratings if there were actual people there! Nasa could fund their mission on the ad revenue...


  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:14PM (#16340307)
    It's fantastic that eggheads can find that teeny tiny rover on all the face of Mars when on most nights I have a hard time finding the ignition in my car after I leave the bar.
  • Proof! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:15PM (#16340325) Journal
    Finally Proof of intelligence. On another planet.
    (Robot is proof of intelligence, and its on another planet, the sentences don't necessarily have to be linked.)
    • Perhaps it got to Mars the same way we got to Earth.
      • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

        Perhaps it got to Mars the same way we got to Earth.

        If so, what was our planned operational lifetime? And will we exceed expectations?

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )
          "And will we exceed expectations?"

          every day.
        • Perhaps it got to Mars the same way we got to Earth.

          If so, what was our planned operational lifetime? And will we exceed expectations?

          I hope not. My body already sounds like a box of Rice Krispies...

        • Well... considering we probably arrived here in microbe form I'd assume we've been here a lot longer than expected.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by trongey ( 21550 )
      Finally Proof of intelligence. On another planet.
      (Robot is proof of intelligence, and its on another planet, the sentences don't necessarily have to be linked.)

      I'll give you partial credit for the "on another planet" part. No points for proof of intelligence, because there's strong evidence that the robot was built by humans.
      • -Atheist: someone who's too lazy to get up at 8:00 on the weekend.

        By eight o'clock I'm usually at about the 11th tee. Although I have to admit, God has probably been mentioned several times by then, one way or another ;-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sighted ( 851500 )
      That's an interesting observation. I don't know if there was ever life on Mars before, but there is now (at least in proxy). That rover is probably the only thing moving on that plain, perhaps ever. It reminds me of the end of The Martian Chronicles, when the family looks into the canal to see the Martians, and their own reflections look back at them.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      But they are linked; it is proof of intelligence and it is on another planet. Thus it is proof, on another planet, of intelligence or equivalently, "proof of intelligence on another planet".

      You're not necessarily saying that the intelligence is on that planet, no matter how many people may infer that...
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:18PM (#16340373) Homepage Journal
    "Morning, Sam."

    "Morning, Ralph."
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:34PM (#16340609) Homepage Journal
    if the tracks had spelled out "When Can I Come Home?"
    • by lgarner ( 694957 )
      Or if it was on blocks. I'm remembering a pretty cool ad (for a soft drink, I think).
    • > if the tracks had spelled out "When Can I Come Home?"

      Yeah, no kidding. That would be really creepy. It's a good thing they only spell out "When can I co".


    • That is amazing! I just wonder how something like that could have formed. Was it from a massive asteriod impact or something else?

      When I first saw it I thought back to Star Wars and the sand pits, but this is much, much bigger. How cool would it be if people could actually be there checking that out close up? I mean, any geek or aspiring space pioneer without a wife/husband and kids would probably gladly accept a one way ticket to see these things close up and to be the first human on Mars.
      • That is amazing! I just wonder how something like that could have formed.
        It looks to me as if the surface is more solid then the sand in the crater (the pattern in the middle looks like loose sand being blown around) and winds moving sand from under the edges of the crater making this jaggy outline by the underground being rendered too loos to support the surface, and having it break off.

        The picture is just mesmerizing...

    • Incredible picture - anyone else play "where's waldo" and try to find the rover? (Hint - look at the original picture to get a rough idea of where on the circle it's located)
  • Would be nice if they could get such a probe to the moon and then we would be able to show people that the Eagle really had landed.
    • Actually, I do believe that you can get imagery of the moon landing from terrestrial observatories.
      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )
        And even if you can't, I'm sure I could fake something for ya.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ars Dilbert ( 852117 )
        No, we can't do that. The Apollo artifacts left on the Moon are just too small. Even the mighty Hubble does not have the resolution necessary to resolve Apollo stuff.

        The ESA lunar probe SMART-1 was in lunar orbit for a while, and it too was not able to resolve Apollo landing sites. But SMART-1 did capture lunar terrain in detail never before possible, except for the pictures taken on the surface of the moon by the Apollo astronauts. The terrain matched the Apollo pictures perfectly, so yeah we've been there
    • Sometimes I think it's more appropriate to allow people to wallow in their own stupidity.

      "Stay The Course"
              Captain Edward John Smith -- 11:38 April 14, 1912
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mh101 ( 620659 )
      I don't think even that would convince everyone.

      They'd simply argue that the probe's launch was actually just another routine launch, and with the state of today's CG capabilities, it would be a piece of cake to fake footage.

      The only way to prove it to those people would be to actually send them there in person.

  • wow... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Simon Thulbourn ( 854757 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:57PM (#16340891)
    Wow, I can view Mars in better detail than I can my own freaking house on Google Maps...
  • Oh - "One Mars Probe Photographs Another. . ."

    My bad.

  • by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:00PM (#16340919) Journal
    but it is more impressive that Opportunity is still working years after its original mission was expected to end. I know both rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, are showing their age, but still to continue to function two and half years past their "warranty" as NASA calls is so cool. In the time since they landed on Mars I've moved three times, changed cities, broke up with two girlfriends, changed jobs and done time for molesting a goat.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, goes to show you... Build a bridge and no one calls you Sammy the Bridge Builder. Kill the giant that's been harrassing your village and no one calls you Sammy the Giant Slayer. Halt Syndrome from destroying the world and no one calls you Sammy the Saviour of the Realm. But f*ck one goat...

      (yeah I know, old joke)
    • by SamSim ( 630795 )

      That's nothing. I'm told Pioneer 10 has a fifty-year warranty which it is nowhere near the end of yet.

      Repairs are on a return-to-manufacturer basis, of course, that's why it was so cheap

    • Don't lie, you didn't have two girlfriends, you slashdot freak. ;)
    • Start with hamsters, end up with goats.
      OK, good to know what the progression is.
  • We should be able to get some very definitive pictures of the lost European rover with this thing. When are we going to get those?
  • Duck bay looks like a good place to try because of what looks like a little break (or slip?) in the scarp just below (in the picture) the location of the rover. I haven't seen any estimates yet of the slope in that part of the crater, nor of the type of material which will be found there.

    I am sure there will be a lot of analysis done before they try. Lets hope it goes well. I wouldn't like to see Opportunity turn over while descending on a too steep slope.

    • by mopomi ( 696055 )
      The problem with ingressing at Duck bay is that it would be on a south-facing slope.

      That's bad news for a solar-powered rover in the southern hemisphere.

      I agree, though, it looks like the safest place to enter from a slope/scarp point of view.

      The Rovers can handle quite a slope. Going down, that is. Coming back out? Well, not so much.
  • Opportunity-> 0
    Camera Mast Shadow-> .
  • Here [] you can see detail on the Rover such a camera pole and its shadow. We are talking about a five foot item.
    I've seen people on the ground in Google Earth photos when the contrast is good. So this is about the same resolution.
  • The new orbiter has a high bandwidth connection to Earth, so it can essentially photograph full time. The previous Global Surveyor orbiter lacked this capacity, so it could only be turned on a fraction of the time.
  • For photos of hot probe-on-probe action.
  • Please give us a call if you spot that errant Beagle puppy. The Brits are still mourning their wee dog.
  • I'm sure this has been mentioned, but this photo: 1006-mars-crater.html []
    reminds me of a dried-up mud puddle.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"