The Mars Descent Imager, nicknamed "MARDI," shot a color video of the terrain below as the rover descended to its landing site. The video helped mission planners select the best path for Curiosity when the rover started exploring Gale Crater.
|Main Job||Took pictures during the spacecraft descent through the Martian atmosphere.|
|Location||Mounted on the fore-port-side of the rover, pointing toward the ground.|
|Memory||8 Gigabyte flash memory storage allows over 4,000 raw frames|
|HD Video||Four color frames per second; close to 1,600 X 1,200 pixels per frame|
Knowing the location of loose debris, boulders, cliffs, and other features of the terrain is vital for planning the path of exploration now that the Mars Science Laboratory rover has landed on the red planet. The Mars Descent Imager took color video during the rover's descent toward the surface, providing an "astronaut's view" of the local environment.
As soon as the rover jettisoned its heatshield several kilometers above the surface, the Mars Descent Imager began producing a four-frames-per-second video stream of high-resolution, overhead views of the landing site. It continued acquiring images until the rover landed, storing the video data in digital memory. After landing safely on Mars, the rover transferred the data to Earth.
In addition to helping Earthbound planners select an optimum path of exploration, the Mars Descent Imager will provide information about the larger geologic context surrounding the landing site. It will also enable mappers to determine the spacecraft's precise location after landing.