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A Literally Other-Worldly Self-Portrait
November 3, 2012 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Amateur astronomer Stuart Atkinson painstakingly stitched together 55 photos to create this stunning self-portrait of Curiosity sitting on Mars. (Click the picture for the full-size 5400 pixel-wide masterpiece.)
posted by hippybear (113 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just gorgeous. Probably the best look that most of us will ever have of it again, until it's in some museum on Mars in a couple of centuries.
posted by jquinby at 8:00 AM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


That is pretty fucking mind-blowing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazing. And lots more cable ties than I was expecting, too.
posted by cromagnon at 8:03 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


This makes me feel like I'm standing on Mars next to my robo-dog, about to go off exploring.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:06 AM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


HELLO MR. SPACE ROBOT SCIENTIST HELLO
posted by The Whelk at 8:07 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obligatory fix (it's a Midwest thing).
posted by crapmatic at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Those aren't cable ties -- they are waxed thread laced knots. Zipties have too many drawbacks and failure modes for NASA. [Previously on metafilter]
posted by autopilot at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


Easiest desktop decision ever—having the Mars Rover looking back at me from Mars.
posted by flippant at 8:12 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]




Obligatory fix (it's a Midwest thing).


Ew, no that is horrible.
posted by sweetkid at 8:13 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Part of me is just dying to get the compressed air and pssht-pssht that upper deck.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:15 AM on November 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Big deal. I could do that, if Big Gub'mint weren't always redistributin' my success.
posted by Behemoth at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is cool as shit; I think it will finally motivate me to hook up the new photo printer that has been sitting next to my computer for a month (I only got the printer because it had a good rebate deal with the camera I bought).
posted by TedW at 8:30 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel very privileged to be able to see such things. We live in amazing times.
posted by mazola at 8:31 AM on November 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm seriously thinking of taking this over to Was-Kinkos and getting something printed to hang on my wall.
posted by hippybear at 8:33 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obligatory fix (it's a Midwest thing).

I was expecting a dimly-lit bar and duckface.
posted by DU at 8:43 AM on November 3, 2012


Uhm yeah, mazola.
posted by nangar at 8:43 AM on November 3, 2012


Two things strike me, each time I see these big Martian panoramas:

1. Wow, that looks so much like Earth.
2. It is so sad to see the death of an entire planet.

I know a lot of people are really jazzed about it, and I feel that too, but mostly I find Mars terribly, terribly depressing. No matter how far you traveled, you'd never get to the green bits. It's brown and dead forever, in every direction.
posted by Malor at 8:46 AM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


but mostly I find Mars terribly, terribly depressing.

It's depressing that we keep sending probes there, when Enceladus is spewing water into space, Titan has methane lakes and Europa might have a sub surface ocean.

But nooooo, let's send another probe to investigate the rocks and dirt of Mars.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on November 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Malor, I think it helps me appreciate what we have here. I've always said the the Earth is the most amazing planet in the whole world.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:04 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


To be fair Brandon, Mars is a lot easier than those other places - I see it as a stepping stone on the way to more challenging exploration. How would we even get data back from beneath the methane lakes of Titan? Once the kind of challenges we face with Mars become more routine, we can move on to the harder stuff. I hope.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:07 AM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it will finally motivate me to hook up the new photo printer ....

I'm seriously thinking of taking this over to Was-Kinkos and getting something printed to hang on my wall.

I immediately wanted this in poster form too, though it wouldn't quite fit in with most of my post-teen decor.

And I think it's amazing what a difference the Chemcam on the mast makes. It's so obviously an eye. I doubt they intended it, but it makes Curiosity so much more relatable.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:12 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jupiter is ~5x further away than Mars. Saturn is that much further away again.

I have no doubt that we could and will be sending probes and rovers out that direction again sometime soon. But as far as this interplanetary exploration thing goes, we're toddlers who have barely learned to get to the corner of the block our house is located on. Eventually we'll cross the street and start heading out toward the really big buildings.
posted by hippybear at 9:13 AM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's brown and dead forever[citation needed]
posted by DU at 9:13 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and hippybear, can you let us know how it comes out (and what it costs) if you get it printed.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2012


Jupiter is ~5x further away than Mars.

What variable does that materially affect? Not fuel. Not ability to control remotely. Perhaps time from launch until landing, but if you could time of project start until landing, it's probably only twice as long. These guys plan for a LOOONG time.
posted by DU at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2012


This is amazing.

*waves at rover*
posted by arcticseal at 9:22 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What variable does that materially affect?

It affects how much we actually know about these other potential exploration sites. We go to Mars because we know so much about it already -- we have full maps of its surface, we know what the environment there is like, there is a lot of information we've gathered which lets us know how and where and what we want to do for science.

We could just send out landers blindly to places we don't have mapped out yet, but taking the gamble that we will end up wrecked or in a non-strategic location isn't the kind of thing NASA does with its incredibly stupidly limited funding.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's brown and dead forever

I understand what you mean. Ultimately, it's just dirt and rocks.

But it's Martian dirt and rocks. For once, it's not a soundstage or the Utah desert, but an actual alien planet - presented so vividly we can imagine ourselves standing there.

It will be a long time before I lose mazola's sense of awe about that.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:28 AM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was surprised to see what look like a bunch of visible dents in all 3 wheels on the right side. Are those just dings from debris kicked up during the landing, or are the wheels so light that they dent from driving over small rocks?
posted by mubba at 9:33 AM on November 3, 2012


(OK, a minute of searching reveals that the wheels served as the landing gear.)
posted by mubba at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2012


What's so mind-blowing about this picture? It's just a dusty robot on a dusty planet.

I guess it's sort of mind-blowing in the sense of, "Wow, this mission is going to be cut short by a wire getting snagged on a rock, isn't it?"

That said, I had no idea the rover was being manually operated by a tiny little fat guy sitting in the Johnny Five eyepiece.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on November 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Dear Curiosity,

Just got your photo from your trip. Totally awesome! You look great even though you are on a working trip. That's a really fantastic view. I am really jealous. Take it easy on souvenirs though (you know, that whole "leave only footprints and take only photo's" kind of thing). If you find silver vases full of bubbly goo - turn around and go in the other direction.
posted by helmutdog at 9:42 AM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I spy with my little eye...Barack Obama's signature.
posted by davebush at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


If this showed up on Curiosity's Facebook page, the first comment would be "Very nice! We went to Sandals in March and it was awesome. I'll post the photos later."
posted by davebush at 9:47 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's so mind-blowing about this picture? It's just a dusty robot on a dusty planet.
Congratulations, I can't think of anything more demotivational and dismissive.
posted by Evernix at 9:47 AM on November 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


Is there a .png version of this? The wired article just gives a giant .jpeg
posted by curious nu at 9:55 AM on November 3, 2012


Someone should photoshop it so that it's holding an iPhone and shooting itself in a bathroom mirror.
posted by brundlefly at 10:04 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's so mind-blowing about this picture? It's just a dusty robot on a dusty planet.

I guess it's the 'on a dusty planet' (that's on average 225 million km away!) part that I find mind-blowing.
posted by mazola at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is wonderful. Exactly the kind of thing that would have been a painting for a dustjacket of a sci-fi novel in the 1970s, but it's real.

Also, autopilot, your cable-lacing link is amazing! Thank you for posting that!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:13 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the first picture (albeit composited) I've seen that has been sent back by any of the recent probes. I decided to click because the Slashdot summary described
By stitching together 55 high-resolution photos, the rover has snapped an 'arm's length' self portrait, capturing its location in the geologically interesting area known as 'Rocknest,' including its recent scoop marks in the Martian soil and the base of Mt. Sharp.
and the idea of seeing what we have wrought on a planet from which we (presumably) did not originate intrigued me.

I was blown away by the techne, the unfolding of the natural world and our involvement in it. I thought I could see for a brief second a real future where people--our collective descendant sons and daughters--would set foot on Mars.

I won't pretend to know whether mine is wishful thinking or realistic forecasting. The evidence is scant and the variables innumerable. I also won't pretend to know whether the on-Earth conditions that might motivate human space exploration will be auspicious or anguished.

I only know I had a giddy sense of possibility for the people who will strive long after I've gone from any kind of knowing.
posted by mistersquid at 10:15 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess it's the 'on a dusty planet' part that I find mind-blowing.

Well, yeah, but it was getting it there that was impressive. Now that it is there, what's the big deal?

It took a picture of itself. Yay.

(Admittedly, this is entirely just me bristling at flat platitudes like "stunning" and "mind-blowing" and "amazing" and "breathtaking" that invariably come up in threads about photography and art.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on November 3, 2012


I don't understand the camera angle. How can there be a picture of the entire rover, taken by the rover itself. There's no mirror, is there?

(I bet I know. It's actually in Arizona, and the picture was taken by a NASA employee! It's all a hoax!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2012


I don't understand the camera angle. How can there be a picture of the entire rover, taken by the rover itself. There's no mirror, is there?

From the Wired post:

The image was taken by Curiosity’s MAHLI hand-held camera, which sits on the end of the rover’s extendable arm. MAHLI snapped 55 pictures from different locations. The different positions overlapped just enough so that the arm couldn’t be seen in the final result.
posted by palidor at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe you guys are buying this. It is so obviously photoshopped!
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:47 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, but it was getting it there that was impressive. Now that it is there, what's the big deal?

That's a much more valid criticism for, say, Luna 2 which didn't so much land on the moon as collide with it. But it was a baby step to better things.

On the other hand, Curiosity -- besides taking the odd snapshot -- is mobile, comparatively sophisticated, and is actually doing things. Science aside, this picture is a visual reminder of just how far we've come.

The picture itself features a landscape and objects that seem familiar, yet the context is totally foreign. It's fascinating.

----------
"...whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you." -- Carl Sagan
posted by mazola at 10:48 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Admittedly, this is entirely just me bristling at flat platitudes like "stunning" and "mind-blowing" and "amazing" and "breathtaking" that invariably come up in threads about photography and art.)

So you don't find photography or art particularly interesting and don't have your mind boggled by our SUV-sized explorer bot which is on a completely different planet having survived one of the most dramatic landings ever and now is doing the most sophisticated extraterrestrial science we as a species have ever done...

...and yet you feel compelled to come into this thread and say "meh".

Stay classy.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


An argument could be made that a robot on Mars taking a picture of itself is completely natural.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:01 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm stuck trying to figure out how they got that chubby MC up there in the eyepeice/DJ booth.
posted by roboton666 at 11:06 AM on November 3, 2012


I guess you could make a distinction between the aesthetic value of the photo and what the photo represents. Because if you're just going by the former, yeah, it's a barren place devoid of color and if you need a little more to go by in your photography criticism career then maybe it's not all that impressive. But what these photos represent, to me at least, is the amazing engineering that it took to get to Mars and be able to take the photo in the first place; the fact that only a hundred years ago there weren't even rockets to carry satellites into space, let alone a rover to Mars, while today thanks to those amazing developments in engineering we live in a world where someone can consider a photo from another planet a mundane thing. Whatever you might think of the value of space missions (I really don't know myself), I think this represents humans at their engineering and problem-solving best, as well as their (pardon the pun) curiosity.
posted by palidor at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2012


Admittedly, this is entirely just me bristling at flat platitudes like "stunning" and "mind-blowing" and "amazing" and "breathtaking" that invariably come up in threads about photography and art.

After talking at length about various aspects of photography and visual art with some fairly well-educated friends, I'm pretty sure that I don't have a soul. Or at least, my aesthetic sense isn't triggered by the same stuff that most normal people appreciate. You will not hear me getting excited about art photography.

I'd still happily describe this photo as amazing, breathtaking and possibly mind-blowing. We're looking at a truck-sized, semi-autonomous robot that's stuffed to the gills with scientific equipment, powered by a nuclear core that should last a decade or two, that our fellow humans designed, built, shipped into space and are currently using to explore and analyse another planet.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not spouting hyperbole over this as a piece of art, over its composition or its subtext. It's a snapshot that gives us a glimpse of something amazing that our species has achieved, and that gives me hope that we'll go on to achieve more.

On preview: what palidor said.


I'm seriously thinking of taking this over to Was-Kinkos and getting something printed to hang on my wall.


Yeah, this is going to be my Dad's christmas present. He already has this photo of Opportunity's tracks on mars, and he'll love this shot of Curiosity.
posted by metaBugs at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


@palidor:

From the Wired post:

The image was taken by Curiosity’s MAHLI hand-held camera, which sits on the end of the rover’s extendable arm. MAHLI snapped 55 pictures from different locations. The different positions overlapped just enough so that the arm couldn’t be seen in the final result.


But I don't see any sign of the extendable arm - there seems to be nothing linking the rover to the point of view to the camera, so unless the extendable arm is actually floating nearby, I don't understand what's going on.
posted by spacediver at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2012


Because I cannot help anthropomorphizing: this makes me feel incredibly, incredibly lonely on behalf of the Rover. (Well, that xkcd cartoon didn't help with that, either.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:27 AM on November 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


But I don't see any sign of the extendable arm - there seems to be nothing linking the rover to the point of view to the camera, so unless the extendable arm is actually floating nearby, I don't understand what's going on.

The photo is a composite of 55 photos taken from the end of the arm. They were re-assembled to show all of the rover, with none of the parts of the photos actually showing the arm included in the final stitch.
posted by gemmy at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the picture is amazing, stunning, breathtaking, inspiring, wonderful, and beautiful. It could the Thomas Kinkaid of Space Exploration, and I'd still buy it at the mall at an inflated price.

I got no shame.

Here's why this picture damn near brings me to tears:

I grew up reading National Geographic and my favorite book as a child was Our Universe. That I get to be alive and see these stunning advancements of humanity is something I intellectually cherish like the finest vintage ever produced. I let it roll around on my mind, the long legs and deep terrior penetrating my psyche, blowing my mind and putting me right back into that mental state when I, at 6 years old, stood on a tree stump one night looking up at the milky way and had my mind totally blown by how fucking cool the universe is. Do you know how easy that feeling can be stolen away from someone growing up in a world that doesn't value scientific wonder? You do, but it's been so many years since your soul was crushed by adulthood you just don't recall it anymore.

So, this brings us to Mars Curiosity. Curiosity is the direct descendant of millions of us growing up with that sense of wonder, and a few of us being able to channel that awe into an ACTUAL SOMETHING. For all of us who said "I want to go there", but were somehow derailed from that dream, a few actually made it.

That feeling of wonder and awe is so hard to feel at 38 years old, so far away and distant, it might as well be on Mars. For NASA and the JPL to rekindle that feeling deep within me is a rare and special treat. This picture offers a reconnection to a part of myself that I terribly miss and love dearly. To feel that again gives me hope that just perhaps, this whole world isn't so worthless and fucked up after all.

And that, Sysreq, is something to be grateful for.
posted by roboton666 at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


Being able to inspect the design and construction of a state-of-the-art spacecraft at this resolution is itself, really cool. To do do with it sitting on another planet is just incredible. And I too will have this image on my wall before the weekend is out. ;)

BTW, the last time I got a large format inkjet print from FedEx/Kinko's, they were charging $6 a square foot. Quality was pretty nice, too- they used (this was a few years ago) a big HP hi-res printer that prints up to 3' wide and any length.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 11:31 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


@gemmy:

The photo is a composite of 55 photos taken from the end of the arm. They were re-assembled to show all of the rover, with none of the parts of the photos actually showing the arm included in the final stitch.

I had to think about it for a bit, but I get it now. Thanks!

edit: Doh, I should have read the original explanation more carefully - missed the part about the overlaps.
posted by spacediver at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2012


spacediver,

If you look at about a 45 degree angle up and left from the closest wheel to the camera, there's a housing (I don't know how to describe any of the parts) that looks like it would be holding the camera arm. It's blurred from stitching, and it looks like that would be the place where the arm would extend from.

As gemmy said above, software allows one to 'stitch' the photos together to create a panorama. Because they were taken from different locations, it's possible to remove things in 3D space without it being readily apparent they were there. This is an AWESOME stitch job. It must have taken ages. Technically this is just a superb photomosaic, done with outstanding raw data - it would be a technical feat even if it were in the backyard - nevermind that it's millions of miles away.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


What I find mind-blowing about this photo, apart from the science that got us there, is how familiar Mars looks in photographs. If you didn't know, many could easily be a desert on Earth.

I'm filled with a sense of wonder when I'm in one of those wide-open, isolated places, even if I could just hop in my car and drive a few minutes to the next gas station. I'm so small, and the sky is so huge. Now imagine that feeling if you were standing on another planet, so far away from home: Not just the sky, but the entirety of space. And the vast emptiness of Mars just a tiny ball of dust.

I don't think my mind would be able to handle it. I would probably break from amazement.

So, yeah. People should use words like "mind-blowing" and "stunning." It is absolutely called for.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I don't see any sign of the extendable arm - there seems to be nothing linking the rover to the point of view to the camera, so unless the extendable arm is actually floating nearby, I don't understand what's going on.

In photo "A", the arm is covering the right side of the rover, and the left side of the rover is visible unobscured.

In photo "B", the arm is covering the left side of the rover, and the right side of the rover is visible unobscured.

Take the unobscured left side from "A" and stitch it together with the unobscured right side from photo "B". That gives you a photo in which the arm is invisible. Or you could combine the other image halves if you wanted it to look like it had two arms.

The point where the arm attaches to the rover is visible, and it must be sitting on a seam between several images because it doesn't look like it has anything coming out of it in any direction.

They took a bunch more photos than that (see the MAHLI camera's raw images here, along with raw images from all the other cameras), but that't the principle, I think.
posted by metaBugs at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2012


Compare to an outboard photo of Curiosity, and you can see where the arm and turret actually are. (And some interesting differences -- looks like the MastCam either wasn't installed or wasn't housed the same way on that test Curiosity.)
posted by jiawen at 11:43 AM on November 3, 2012


Dull, dull, dull. A dead thing among dead things. I'm sorry I don't share the enthusiasm.
posted by deo rei at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2012


the last time I got a large format inkjet print from FedEx/Kinko's, they were charging $6 a square foot.

The online tool for setting up printing at Was-Kinkos is beastly expensive. I'll have to load the file onto a thumb drive and make the trek into town to see how much it would cost. That may not happen until Monday. I'll let people know what it comes out to as soon as I know.

(Maybe someone can answer some questions before I go in -- is 300dpi still standard "good quality" printing? I'd like to get it printed at the best quality possible and have it be "full size" (that is every pixel is printed, not interpolated down or up). But I have no idea what printers are capable of doing these days, so I have no idea how big the final print would be.)
posted by hippybear at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2012


Dull, dull, dull. A dead thing among dead things. I'm sorry I don't share the enthusiasm.

Perhaps you'd enjoy this then. NASA has something for everybody!
posted by mazola at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


And I think it's amazing what a difference the Chemcam on the mast makes. It's so obviously an eye

No, no, no. Look at the picture again. What's clearly the eyes are the navcams. The Chemcam is a miner's headlight, and the unlabeled crossbar thing (joint?) is the mouth.

If you didn't know, many could easily be a desert on Earth.

Yeah, that's why it makes me sad, because it may potentially have been lush and lovely once, but the world died, just a little too small to hold its atmosphere. I guess this doesn't resonate with very many people, but to me, it feels like Curiosity is exploring a cosmic tragedy, trudging through the bleached bones of an entire planet.
posted by Malor at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny about the footprints on the left.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:05 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hippybear: According to online calculators, the image at 300 DPI will 18 by 25 inches.
posted by roboton666 at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2012


I think this is a lot of fun. Maybe not breathtaking, but showing us something rather cool in a playful way. I guess that more than a few would look at it and not even think about the "problem" of the photo. Almost such a subtle trick that you can't see it even when it is right before you.
posted by Jehan at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2012


Malor: "What's clearly the eyes are the navcams."

Don't you mean the MastCam components (MAC and NAC)? The Navcams are the four even-smaller cameras outside the MastCam components.

My question: Why did they decide to go with all that exposed wiring? Seems like sandstorms on Mars would be wreak havoc there, and it looks like it may already have caused some damage.
posted by jiawen at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2012


hippybear: 300dpi is generally acceptable for printing text for normal reading distance; you wouldn't need anything near that high. 150dpi would probably be more appropriate. It would be beautiful at normal viewing distance, 2 feet or so.

The original image is 5463x7595, so if you print it at 150 dots per inch, it will come out 36.42 inches wide, and 50.63 inches tall.

What you probably want to do is scale it to whatever the width of the printer is, so that you get it in a single pass, and don't have to trim and glue the pieces to make a larger picture. Printer resolutions are so high that arbitrarily scaling it this way should be just fine. A printer dot is not the same as a screen dot; it takes a dithered pattern of printed dots to represent the exact shade of a display dot. Because of this, there's no way to get 1:1 exactitude when you print. Just scale it to fit the printer.

Your LCD is probably 100dpi, so if you like the look of the picture onscreen, you should get pretty comparable results with a 100dpi printout. That would go to 54.63x75.95 inches.
posted by Malor at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2012


Hey everybody! I really don't care about this photo! It's totally stupid, and you're stupid for feeling things! Hey! Why aren't you paying attention to me! Guys?
posted by danny the boy at 12:34 PM on November 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


So you don't find photography or art particularly interesting and don't have your mind boggled by our SUV-sized explorer bot which is on a completely different planet having survived one of the most dramatic landings ever and now is doing the most sophisticated extraterrestrial science we as a species have ever done...

...and yet you feel compelled to come into this thread and say "meh".

Stay classy.


You know what? I really am not ashamed to ask "Why?" when people make vague declarations of something's greatness.

I'm sorry critical thinking offends you.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:34 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not critical thinking, Sys Rq, that's being critical. Very different thing.
posted by Malor at 12:36 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


jiawen: Don't you mean the MastCam components (MAC and NAC)?

Yes, you're right, I misread the diagram. Oops!
posted by Malor at 12:38 PM on November 3, 2012


That's not critical thinking, Sys Rq, that's being critical. Very different thing.

Well, whatever. It's a darn sight classier than personal attacks supported by made-up quotations.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:39 PM on November 3, 2012


That's not critical thinking, Sys Rq, that's being cynical.
posted by Pendragon at 12:48 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


What you probably want to do is scale it to whatever the width of the printer is, so that you get it in a single pass, and don't have to trim and glue the pieces to make a larger picture.

Well, the point of my going to Was-Kinkos to get it printed is that they have the equipment to handle pretty much whatever size I need it to be.

Your LCD is probably 100dpi, so if you like the look of the picture onscreen, you should get pretty comparable results with a 100dpi printout. That would go to 54.63x75.95 inches.

I'm pretty sure I don't need a 5' x 6' print of this picture. It's an amusing idea... but where on earth would I put THAT?
posted by hippybear at 12:48 PM on November 3, 2012


You know what? I really am not ashamed to ask "Why?" when people make vague declarations of something's greatness.

You only just BARELY asked "why" about people's interest in this photo. Your actual words were:
What's so mind-blowing about this picture? It's just a dusty robot on a dusty planet.

I guess it's sort of mind-blowing in the sense of, "Wow, this mission is going to be cut short by a wire getting snagged on a rock, isn't it?"
and
Well, yeah, but it was getting it there that was impressive. Now that it is there, what's the big deal?

It took a picture of itself. Yay.

(Admittedly, this is entirely just me bristling at flat platitudes like "stunning" and "mind-blowing" and "amazing" and "breathtaking" that invariably come up in threads about photography and art.)
If you intended for your words to convey the meaning "So, I don't understand what others feel is so great about this photo. Could that be explained to me?", you didn't do a very good job of displaying your confusion and curiosity within the wrapper of cynicism and dismissal.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


This photo deserves lots of praiseworthy words, including, but not limited to, "brilliant", "stunning", "breathtaking", and "yowzathatsahellofathing". I love that someone took the time to stitch together so many photos to give us a wholly unique and clear view of Curiosity, in a way we'll never get to see otherwise (unless our alien friends snap a few and send them back). I, too, am surprised at how exposed parts of Curiosity are.

May you enjoy a long, fruitful and amazing life on planet Mars, buddy old pal!
posted by but no cigar at 12:55 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been looking at pictures of Mars for as long as I can remember. My brother had a large, heavy, scientific book called "Scientific Results of the Viking Project". I was flipping through the pages, admiring the pictures, graphs, tables, and formulas even before I could read. I'd keep coming back to that book often, and after each school year I would check to see if I had learned enough that year to understand a little bit more of the data.

It was like having some ancient magic tome, which would hold all sorts of amazing things if I could just understand it. It encouraged me to study all sorts of math, science, physics, chemistry and history just to understand more of the results.

When I was older, and could understand a reasonable amount of the data, it lost a bit of the magic, but it had already done it's work, and had a profound effect on me throughout my life. Even today, one of the most powerful things to spur me to action is to be presented with something I don't understand. I come across a page describing 13th century water-powered mills, but in Latin? OK, learn Latin, learn medieval machine construction, learn what trees make good lumber, what places along river allow for the best placement of a water wheel, etc. It's a blessing and a curse.

That one book, now that I'm really thinking about it, really changed my life. Bizarre.

So yeah, pictures of Mars are still amazing. The amount of posts expressing bored disinterest are both surprising and confusing to me.
posted by chambers at 12:55 PM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, those google-guys going to get there soon?

I want my interactive map, and I want it now!

Yeah, nice photo.
posted by mule98J at 12:59 PM on November 3, 2012


I want my interactive map, and I want it now!

Here you go.

(They also have the Moon)
posted by dirigibleman at 1:03 PM on November 3, 2012


Those of you looking for ways to get this photo printed out nicely - I've ordered hundreds of prints of various sizes (up to 20 x 30 inches) from adorama over the years and I've always been happy with the results.
posted by moonmilk at 1:10 PM on November 3, 2012


No doubt: Curiosity is a huge & beautiful accomplishment of humanity. & I do think that it (curiosity) is what moves us forward as a species.

I also feel what Sys Rq and malor are getting at in terms of how isolated & lifeless Mars looks compared to Earth. Even if there is life there, it's invisible (to us); I'm not sure if I could appreciate a monochromatic world with no trees, grass or things that move of their own volition.

At the very least, maybe it will move us to save our own in the realization of how truly unique it is.
posted by yoga at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2012


this makes me feel incredibly, incredibly lonely on behalf of the Rover

I imagine Dr. Manhattan showing up to keep it company.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:34 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, if you're gonna lump me in with SysRq, keep in mind that I'm most emphatically not saying this is valueless. I was cheering with everyone else in the landing thread! And I think this picture is amazing, and I might print it, too.

I'm just struck by a real sense of sadness, in looking at a planet that died because it wasn't quite right. Please don't take that as anything more; it's not intended as criticism.

It's also a tiny bit creepy; it feels like looking at a skeleton.
posted by Malor at 1:39 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, we don't know what kind of life ever existed on Mars... yet.

It might have been lush and green, or it might have only ever had microbial life in small pockets here and there.

Having life ≠ having forests and lakes and higher life forms even beyond yeast.

Mars probably had something... but what and how much? We just don't know yet.
posted by hippybear at 1:44 PM on November 3, 2012


I've always found that trees often seem to get in the way of the landscape. Don't get me wrong, they have their own beauty too; however, one of the things I really love about the north is the absence of trees which really reveals just how vast the landscape is.

With that in mind, I truly do find Mars stunning, mind-blowing, breathtaking, amazing, and whatever other flat platitudes you can think of.
posted by jamincan at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those who have a bit of the "Mars? Again?" kind of feeling. Here's a few reasons why we keep going there:

Technologies for all future missions within the solar system can be tested by going to Mars. It's not just for digging and scanning once you're there. It's close enough to test out technologies, procedures, and encounter and solve problems that arise on a trip to any other planet, while wrapping them into a program that can return a result worthy of the initial funding.

It's close, it's (relatively) cheap to get there, and we already have satellites orbiting to assist with communications and observations, and it has 2 asteroid moons that can be explored and experiment with new tech that can be combined with other missions to share the cost of the ride.

It's the best testing ground for any exploration system - the results can be used to develop probes for elsewhere in the solar system, and have better, proven methods that lessen the risk of failure when we go to more complicated, dangerous worlds, like the moons of Jupiter.

Besides, even with the antibacterial qualities of surface soil, there is still a decent chance of it being a 'mostly dead' planet. There is still the possibility of dormant microbial life under (perhaps even miles under) the surface - if there were ever microbial life there, the surface conditions that make it nigh impossible to support life on the surface is irrelevant when miles underground. The Earth has microbes up to 20 miles beneath the surface - it's not unreasonable that Mars would have them if there were microbes there at some time in it's history.
posted by chambers at 2:06 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not quite Sys Rq's reaction, but Mrs. Muckster shrugged, too. "Looks fake," she said, and that was that. In a way, she's right -- after all, it is heavily photoshopped, an "impossible" image, at least at the moment. Me, I get why people are blown away by it, but I have to work at it.
posted by muckster at 2:22 PM on November 3, 2012


Here's a well-label picture of all the cameras on Curiosity.

At first I saw the big old Chemcam as the single eye, until the mastcams were pointed out. Then I started seeing it just like Malor's perfect description, miner's helmet and all. That kicked my pareidolia into overdrive, along with my flagrant anthropomorphizing. Hi there, little rover!
posted by benito.strauss at 2:29 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I don't need a 5' x 6' print of this picture. It's an amusing idea... but where on earth would I put THAT?

Maybe in place of a couple Pearl Jam & U2 swag posters?

I kid because I love.
posted by wallabear at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe in place of a couple Pearl Jam & U2 swag posters?

Hey! No comments from the penis gallery.
posted by hippybear at 2:53 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh shit. Peanut gallery.

damn autocorrect
posted by hippybear at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My brother had a large, heavy, scientific book called "Scientific Results of the Viking Project"

A few years ago I picked up this book Mars: An Introduction to its Interior, Surface, and Atmosphere which is used as a textbook for graduate level Planetary Science courses. I only understand roughly (and generously) about a third of it but it's one of the things which inspired me to go after that STEM degree relatively late in life. Graduate study in Planetary Science is probably not the best choice I could make in terms of a career change but it is endlessly fascinating.

And I understand how some would find the images of Mars banal in a way. But there's a great message in the banality. After I was midway through Geology 101 and was preparing a report on Mars for Astronomy, I was looking at some of the rover photographs of an outcropping, the initial thought was "Big deal, this is the sort of sedimentary layers you see just about everywhere" and then the epiphany hit. First, sedimentary layers on Mars! And then secondly: If these mechanics of liquid interacting with rock has this effect on Earth and then mostly the same effect on Mars, even with its reduced gravity, then these mechanics are probably universal for any rocky planet in the universe and their landscapes will be, more or less, completely understandable.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Well, yeah, but it was getting it there that was impressive. Now that it is there, what's the big deal?

When somebody gives you a souvenir of their trip, do you complain that they hadn't brought you along with them?
posted by ardgedee at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2012


No 'Positive Detection' of Methane on Mars, NASA Announces
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on November 3, 2012


Could Mars Rover Curiosity Come Home?
posted by homunculus at 3:40 PM on November 3, 2012


hippybear: I'm pretty sure I don't need a 5' x 6' print of this picture.

Well, I'm just trying to explain the rough upper bound. Half that size in each direction would give you a better print, much less blurry if you look closely.

I haven't used a print service in, wow, I don't even know how long, but I think they're usually constrained in terms of the width of their printer. So you can say, "how big can you make this in one printout, without splicing", and they'll probably say something like 30 or 36 inches, and any arbitrary height. If that's the case, then you can print 36 inches wide, however tall it comes out, and have it look pretty good.
posted by Malor at 3:52 PM on November 3, 2012


Metafilter: No comments from the penis gallery.
posted by arcticseal at 4:17 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Having life ≠ having forests and lakes and higher life forms even beyond yeast.

On a planet that this particular human would want to inhabit it does. :)
posted by yoga at 5:14 PM on November 3, 2012


Just printed this out at Fedex/Kinkos. I opted for a 24" x 17" in glossy ($11 sq. ft) and it came out to CDN $45. Plak mounting will certainly bring the total over $100 in the end. Worth it, though. It looks great.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:56 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This photo got me thinking. You know what we need? A rover to observe the rover! Then we can tune in (whenever the signal is available) and watch Curiosity actually doing its thing! The observer rover could even move around Curiosity so it's at the best angle to catch the action.

And, then, OMG, rover races!! On Mars!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:45 PM on November 3, 2012


If you want to read more about this picture:

Emily Lakdawalla points out some stuff.

Entire thread at unmannedspaceflight.com of people tweaking the image.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:43 AM on November 4, 2012


OMG! The 3D self portrait linked in the Emily Lakdawalla link above is really REALLY good.

(I'm so happy that I have red/green 3D glasses within reach as I sit at my computer.)
posted by hippybear at 7:53 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rover looks like Wall-E :)
posted by liza at 11:37 AM on November 4, 2012


I like this image, so I made a 24in by 36in poster of it, neatly contained in a six meg PDF.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 PM on November 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Love the poster, Brandon.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:06 PM on November 4, 2012


What I hadn't anticipated from this particular endeavor to Mars is how good the pictures coming back would be. Throughout all of my life, pictures form space always came back grainy and otherworldly. Now they look like Curiosity could have been photographed somewhere in HD in Arizona and posted on the internet.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:47 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This would be a good time to read K.S. Robinson's fun Mars Trilogy...
posted by xjudson at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2012


RED JOURNEY
posted by homunculus at 8:11 PM on November 5, 2012


Almost Being There: Why the Future of Space Exploration Is Not What You Think
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on November 12, 2012


Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now
posted by homunculus at 4:20 PM on November 20, 2012


I wish they hadn't said anything, because now anything less than an cute Martian baby will be disappointing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:42 AM on November 21, 2012


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