Updated 10:06 a.m. ET, Tuesday, August 14
But now things are about to get even more interesting: The rover is concluding a massive software update that will allow it to begin driving around and sampling Martian soil and geology, officially embarking on its two-year scientific exploration mission to determine whether Mars ever had conditions capable of supporting life.
Plus, it’s now possible for ordinary Web users to look around the rover’s landing site from its point of view — a full 360 degrees — thanks to several recently published interactive panoramas made up of still images captured by Curiosity.
The Wall Street Journal has created two 360 rotatable panoramas — a black-and-white and color version, which users can toggle between using the buttons on the top left of this page. Users can also zoom in on any area of the image for a closer view. The panoramas were created out of images snapped by the Mars Curiosity rover on August 9, according to the The Journal.
Another engaging interactive panorama of Mars Curiosity image data was put together on the crowdsourcing panoramas photography website 360Cities.net by photographer Andrew Bodrov. Bodrov’s image also shows the rover body itself in striking high-resolution detail.
Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico
“I used color filter to make it more representable,” Bodrov wrote to TPM via email. “Color photos of Mars look different, but NASA still has not published enough source materials to assemble a complete panorama. I am just waiting for new photos.”
Bodrov clarified that he used Adobe Photoshop to retouch the images and to add the Sun in the Martian sky, the size and appearance of which he approximated using an image captured in 2005 by the older NASA Mars rover Spirit.
Jeffrey Martin, the founder of 360Cities, told TPM that despite these changes, the panorama is the closest one can come to being on Mars, for now.
“It is totally accurate — it is a wider-angle version of the existing photos put together,” Martin wrote in an email to TPM.
However, in the new Curiosity panorama, the 360Cities website’s geolocation feature appears to confuse the Mars Curiosity Rover’s image location as New Mexico.
Bodrov explained to TPM that this glitch was of a 360cities website requirement that all photos by tagged with a location. “It’s necessary to mark location, but there’s no locations outside of Earth,” Bodrov wrote, “But if you try to search ‘Mars’ it offers location in New Mexico, so it’s why older panoramas from Mars are also located here.”
Bodrov said he sent his panorama along to NASA using a feedback form on NASA’s website, but has yet to receive a response from the agency on his work.
“We have not spoken to anyone at NASA,” added 360Cities founder Martin. “We’d love to cooperate them in a more official capacity with these and future images. We expect they are rather inundated with inquiries these days.”
The new interactive panoramas come on the heels of NASA publishing “flat,” or non-rotatable panoramic composite images of the rover’s surroundings and of itself. NASA on Saturday published its first full-color, high-resolution flat mosaic image from the rover’s twin mast-mounted cameras, or Mastcam, which depicts the rover’s landing site in rich detail as well — a massive, 95-mile-wide shallow area on the Eastern portion of Mars, near the equator, known as Gale Crater. Even more high-resolution images and video clips taken by the rover’s 17 different cameras are expected soon.
Late update: Updated throughout to add statements and information from photographer Andrew Bodrov and 360Cities founder Jeffrey Martin.