Mastcam-Z for Scientists

Mastcam-Z is a multispectral, stereoscopic imaging instrument based on the successful Mastcam instrument on NASA's Mars Curiosity rover.

Mastcam-Z, Lens Packaging
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
Download full image ›
From its position on the Perseverance rover's Remote Sensing Mast (RSM), the Mastcam-Z imaging investigation acquires visible color (RGB), stereo panoramas of the Martian surface at resolutions sufficient to resolve ~1 mm features in the near-field (robotic arm workspace) and ~3-4 cm features 100 meters away. Mastcam-Z is also equipped with bandpass filters (400 to 1000 nm) that are used to distinguish unweathered from weathered materials and to provide important insights into the mineralogy of many silicates, oxides, oxyhydroxides, and diagnostic hydrated minerals. Mastcam-Z also images the sun directly using a pair of solar filters.

The Mastcam-Z cameras have the capability to zoom, focus, acquire data at high-speed (video rates of 4 frames/sec or faster for subframes), and store large amounts of data in internal storage. These capabilities permit investigators to examine targets that are otherwise out of the rover's reach. The cameras can observe time-dependent phenomena such as dust devils, cloud motions, and astronomical phenomena, as well as activities related to driving, sampling, and caching. Mastcam-Z has improved stereo imaging capabilities compared to the Mars Science Laboratory rover's Mastcam and the Mars Exploration Rovers' Pancam. Mastcam-Z provides important advances in navigational and instrument-placement capabilities that help support and enhance Perseverance's driving and coring/sampling capabilities.

The Science

Mastcam-Z observes textural, mineralogical, structural, and morphologic details in rocks and fines at the rover's field site. The cameras allow the science team to piece together the geologic history of the site via the stratigraphy of rock outcrops and the regolith, as well as to constrain the types of rocks present (e.g., sedimentary vs. igneous). The Mastcam-Z cameras also document dynamic processes and events via video (e.g., dust devils, cloud motions, and astronomical phenomena, as well as activities related to driving, sampling, and caching), observe the atmosphere, and contribute to rover navigation and target selection for investigations by the coring/caching system, as well as other instruments.

Mastcam-Z has three overarching science roles:

1. Characterize the overall landscape geomorphology, processes, and the nature of the geologic record (mineralogy, texture, structure, and stratigraphy) at the rover field site.

  • Mastcam-Z observations provide a full description of the topography, geomorphology, geologic setting, and the nature of past and present geologic processes of the Perseverance field site, especially as they pertain to habitability.
  • Studies include observations of rocks and outcrops to help determine morphology, texture, structure, mineralogy, stratigraphy, rock type, history/sequence, and associated depositional, diagenetic, and weathering characteristics.
  • Characterizing the overall landscape and geologic record also requires observations of regolith to help evaluate physical and chemical alteration, along with stratigraphy, texture, mineralogy, and depositional/erosional processes.

2. Assess current atmospheric and astronomical conditions, events, and surface-atmosphere interactions and processes.

  • Mastcam-Z makes observations of clouds, dust-raising events, properties of suspended aerosols (dust, ice crystals), astronomical phenomena, and aeolian transport of fines.
  • Mastcam-Z images characterize potential ice- or frost-related (periglacial) geomorphic features, and even the characterization of frost or ice, if present, and its influence on rocks and fines.

3. Provide operational support and scientific context for rover navigation, contact science, sample selection, extraction, and caching, and the other selected Mars-2020 investigations.

  • Mastcam-Z images assist rover navigation by determining the location of the Sun and of horizon features, and by providing information pertinent to rover traversability (e.g., distant hazards, terrain meshes, etc.).
  • Mastcam-Z observations enable other Perseverance science instruments to identify and characterize materials to be collected for in situ analyses, coring, and caching, or other purposes (e.g., hardware monitoring).

Instrument Summary
(Gray = Identical to MSL/Mastcam)

Pixel Scale (IFOV)
(wide to narrow)
~ 0.5 mm/pix to ~0.15 mm/pix at 2 m
~ 2.7 cm/pix to ~0.74 cm/pix at 100 m
Focus Range 1 meters to infinity for 28-50 mm f.l.
2 meters to infinity for 50-100 mm f.l.
SNR 30:1 worst-case, >100:1 typical
Wavelength range 400-1000 nm
RGB Bayer-pattern filter
11 narrowband filters, 2 ND filters for
blue, red imaging of the Sun
MTF > 0.2 at Nyquist (camera system)
Focal length 28-100 mm Zoom range
Focal ratio f/8 at wide zoom; f/10 at narrow zoom
FOV (1600x1200) 23°x18° (wide) to 6°x5° (narrow)
Type All-refractive, athermalized
Detector Truesense (Kodak) KAI-2020 CM
interline transfer CCD with 1600x1200
photoactive pixels
Pixel pitch 7.4 microns
Command & Data
Synchronous LVDS: 8 Mbit/sec (Data)
and 2 Mbit/sec (Command) serial link
Digitization 11 bits/pixel; single gain, no offset states
Compression Lossless ~1.7:1; Lossy JPEG color or
grayscale; 11- to 8-bit companding
Realtime or deferred
Image memory 256 Mbytes SDRAM 8 Gbyte flash image
buffer in each camera
Power 11.8 Watts imaging, per camera
7.5 Watts standby, per camera
Electronics Architecture Actel FPGA in camera head,
Xilinx FPGA in digital box
Identical to MSL/Mastcam
11x12x26 cm (camera head, per unit)
22x12x5 cm (digital elect. assembly)
10x10x7 cm (calibration target)
Mass: 2 Camera Heads,
1 DEA, cal target
4.0 kg current best estimate, total
4.5 kg with >10% margin (high heritage)