Clicking a selfie is probably the most common thing we do in our everyday lives. All it takes is a click and a second. However, things are a little bit different when you are clicking the selfie of a rover 362 million kilometres away on another planet.
The April 6 selfie of the Perseverance rover alongside the Ingenuity helicopter will probably go down in history as one of the most iconic images ever clicked. The image ranks in the same file as that of Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon, or that of the Pale Blue Dot image of Earth clicked by Voyager 1 from a distance of six billion kilometres from the planet.
The iconic selfie added to an already social-media-savvy rover that had mesmerised us with picture-perfect videos of its landing and deployment earlier.
The selfie not only created a worldwide buzz but also allowed engineers to check wear and tear on the rover trundling on a hostile planet.The selfie clicked by Perseverance rover using its robotic arm. (Photo: JPL)
HOW DOES A ROVER CLICK A SELFIE?
While it takes us just a press of the camera button to click a selfie on Earth, a similar act on Mars required the teamwork of about a dozen engineers, Perseverance drivers, camera operators and image processors.
The Perseverance team plotted the event over a span of a week to chart out the commands and sequences to be sent to the rover to move its arm. A total of 62 separate images clicked over the span of an hour were stitched together to make the perfect selfie.
Vandi Verma, Chief Engineer For Perseverance Robotic Operation, said the way the rover takes a selfie is a little more complex than the way we do it. The descent and landing of the Perseverance rover has already made it a social-media savvy rover. (Photo: JPL)
The rover uses the WATSON camera located on the hand, or turret, at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm. While the camera has been designed to take detailed images of the surface, engineers had to command the rover to take dozens of individual images to produce the selfie.
Spanned over an hour, the robotic arm moved within a frame to capture 62 images that detailed the Perseverance rover standing tall with Ingenuity helicopter in the rugged background of the Jazero crater. Once the images came down to Earth, image processing engineers assembled the individual frames into a mosaic, which was then warped like a normal camera photo.
“The thing that took the most attention was getting Ingenuity into the right place in the selfie. Given how small it is, I thought we did a pretty good job,” Mike Ravine, Advanced Projects Manager at MSSS, said in a statement.