You looking at me? You looking at ME?

I know I’m probably the last blogger in this arm of the Milky Way to write about this image, but hey, I’ve a life *offline* too! 😉 Anyway, I’m sure some of you won’t have seen it yet, so here we go.

For a long time now – a LONG time – we’ve been looking forward to Curiosity taking pictures of herself with the camera mounted on the end of her robot arm. Because the arm is so long, and the camera on the end of it so brilliant, we’ve known for a long time that when the time came to extend the arm and look back with the instrument turret’s MAHLI camera we’d see something special, and yesterday morning, when the pictures reached the internet, we weren’t disappointed.

But going back just a little, here’s a picture *of* that instrument ‘turret’ on the end of the robot arm, taken by one of Curiosity’s main cameras…

I really like that even though it’s only in black and white, because it shows the turret pointing towards “The Promised Land”, that area of Mt Sharp’s foothills where Curiosity will eventually make “landfall” at the base opf the mountain and then start climbing up through the rough terrain, past and around and between all those glorious mesas, buttes and ridges. That’s kind of a “We’re going THATAWAY!” picture, I think!

Anyway, Curiosity took a LOT of imagesof that turret, which was turned around and up and down so it could be photographed from lots of different angles, so it could be properly checked out. When that was completed, the turret then turned around so its camera was facing the rover…

Where’s the camera? Well, in the centre of that image there’s a small pinkish circle, see? Here, take a closer look…

That pink disc is actually a lens cap – actually a cover that slides over it, not a “cap” in that way, oh, you know what I mean! – covering the MAHLI camera. It’s important to keep this camera’s lens covered as much as posisble, because Mars is a very dusty place, especially at ground level where this camera will be doing much of its work, so that lens cap is going to be on a lot more than it’s off.

Anyway… the camera was turned to face the rover.. and like many of us do, or have done, whilst visiting a new place, she took her own photo, showing herself against the landscape…

Wow… look at that… even though Curiosity is dimmed and blurred because the picture was taken *through* the lens cap (this time, they’ll take it off for a ‘proper’ picture soon I’m sure) it’s beautiful, isn”t it? You can clearly see the different cameras on the mast – the ‘eyes’ in Curiosity’s ‘head’ as it were – and it’s just a lovely picture, don’t you agree? Of course, with a bit of work it can be cleaned up and sharpened to look even better…

That’s more like it…  a lot more detail on the rover’s head, plus rocks on the surface, and detail on the horizon too. And the right way round, too! The “cover-off” picture, when it’s taken, is going to be jaw-droppingly brilliant, isn’t it? (Though, to be honest, I really like that burnt orange/sepia tone caused by the image being taken through the dust cover…)

But make no mistake, even dimmed by a dusty lens cap, that’s a classic image, an historic image, a landmark image. This is a self-portrait taken by a roboton the surface Of Another Planet. Just think about that for a moment, think on the significance of that. That picture, up there, will- or should – be in every astronomy book, certainly every astronomy book on Mars and/or the solar system – from now on. That is iconic. Curiosity will take lots more pictures of herself, but there could only ever be one FIRST picture of herself, and that is It.

As incredible as that image is to us, viewing it from the comfort of our sofas, offices or studies, I have to wonder what it feels like for the people who conceived, built and launched Curiosity. What must it be like to watch something being built, piece by piece, to see it slowly taking shape, maybe even to touch and feel it when no-one else is looking, just to say you’ve had some physical connection with it, and then to see it hurled off into deep space on the very top of a very long and very explosive bomb, and THEN to see it looking at you from your computer monitor, with the hills of Gale Crater’s horizon behind it and rocks scattered all around it? I can’t even BEGIN to imagine what that must feel like, but it must be a very special feeling indeed. And I hope everyone who worked on MSL, at every stage of its development, takes a moment to look at that picture and smile and tell themselves “I helped get that there… I helped make that…!”

As for what else Curiosity is up to, well, she’s been making slow but sure progress towards Glenelg, ready and eager to do some real science. She’s been photographing her suroundings and the rocks around her, but the images being displayed for sharing with the world are still ruined by that bloody hideous, godawful Bayer pattern, and are fit for nothing, so I’m not even going to bother to try and process them or post them here; life’s too short and I just can’t be arsed, sorry, especially when on the other side of Mars Oppy is sending back spectacular images of the ancient rocks on the rim of Endeavour crater. Come on NASA, JPL, MSL team, whoever it may concern, you really need to stop ****ing about and show us Mars properly now, it’s been a month.

Looking forward to seeing that cap-off self portrait of Curiosity soon!


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