NASA released the highest-resolution panorama of Mars ever to make its way back to Earth. Aspirational astronauts can edge closer to a sense of full immersion by zooming in on the huge 2GB image, or they can take a ride with the Curiosity rover as it cruises Mars' surface.
Immersion on the surface of Mars
In the video, the blue-red juxtaposition of Mars' stark horizon is intriguing, especially when zoomed-in. The panorama is a composite of nearly 1,200 distinct images captured over four days. Taken around Thanksgiving when Curiosity was motionless, the final image is nearly 1.8 billion pixels, which means we can see some impressive details — like the crater in which Curiosity is situated, and an additional 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) wide crater inside of that one.
"While many on our team were at home enjoying Turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes," said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement on Wednesday.
Engineering Curiosity's spectacular image
The photos composing the image were taken using the telephoto lens on Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam). The photography was programmed in advance, and took place between noon and 2 p.m. local Mars time, every day, to produce images with consistent lighting conditions, said NASA officials.
However, it's interesting to turn the camera downward. The serpentine, spindly wires, a radiation sensor, and a sundial are — for all our spectating purposes — our collective body on Mars.
This collection of materials from Earth — the rover, Curiosity — was engineered into a machine capable of extending our senses to the surface of Mars, at a level of visual immersion that's coming closer and closer to the real thing. Now look up, and enjoy what it's like to stand on Mars more realistically than ever before.