Eyes and Senses

Rover "Eyes" and other "Senses"

Each rover has nine "eyes." Six engineering cameras aid in rover navigation and three cameras perform science investigations.

Mars Exploration Rover Antennas

Each camera has an application-specific set of optics.

Four Engineering Hazcams (Hazard Avoidance Cameras):

Mounted on the lower portion of the front and rear of the rover, these black-and-white cameras use visible light to capture three-dimensional (3-D) imagery. This imagery safeguards against the rover getting lost or inadvertently crashing into unexpected obstacles, and works in tandem with software that allows the rover make its own safety choices and to "think on its own."

The cameras each have a wide field of view of about 120 degrees. The rover uses pairs of Hazcam images to map out the shape of the terrain as far as 3 meters (10 feet) in front of it, in a "wedge" shape that is over 4 meters wide at the farthest distance. It needs to see far to either side because unlike human eyes, the Hazcam cameras cannot move independently; they are mounted directly to the rover body.

Two Engineering Navcams (Navigation Cameras):

Mounted on the mast (the rover "neck and head"), these black-and-white cameras use visible light to gather panoramic, three-dimensional (3D) imagery. The Navcam is a stereo pair of cameras, each with a 45-degree field of view to support ground navigation planning by scientists and engineers. They work in cooperation with the Hazcams by providing a complementary view of the terrain.

Two Science Pancams (Panoramic Cameras):

This color, stereo pair of cameras is mounted on the rover mast and delivers three-dimensional panoramas of the Martian surface. As well as science panoramas, the narrow field of view and height of the cameras basically mimic the resolution of the human eye (0.3 milliradians), giving the world a view similar to what a human geologist might see if she or he were standing on the surface of Mars. Also, the Pancam detectors have 8 filters per "eye" and between the two "eyes" there are 11 total unique color filters plus two-color, solar-imaging filters to take multispectral images. The Pancam is also part of the rover's navigation system. With the solar filter in place, the Pancam can be pointed at the Sun and used as an absolute heading sensor. Like a sophisticated compass, the direction of the Sun combined with the time of day tells the flight team exactly which way the rover is facing. [More on the Pancams in the science instrument section.]

One Science Microscopic Imager:

This monochromatic science camera is mounted on the robotic arm to take extreme close-up pictures of rocks and soil. Some of its studies of the rocks and soil help engineers understand the properties of the smaller rocks soil that can impact rover mobility (how much resistance it has against the rover wheels, how far they'll sink) . [More on the Microscopic Imager in the science instrument section.]

For more information on how the rover uses its cameras to move on the surface of Mars, please see Rover Navigation in the Surface Operations section of the mission timeline.

For more information on how the rover uses its cameras to conduct science investigations, please see Science Investigations in the Surface Operations section of the mission timeline.