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Mars Space Science

The View from the Top of Husband Hill 184

chriscrick writes "After 14 months of climbing, the Mars rover Spirit has reached the summit of Husband Hill, 269 feet above the edge of the Martian plain. The panoramic view from the top is spectacular. According to lead scientist Steve Squyres, 'What field geologists typically do - and Spirit is a robotic field geologist - is you climb to the top of the nearest hill and take a look around so you get the lay of the land and figure out where you want to go.'"
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The View from the Top of Husband Hill

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  • by PsychicX ( 866028 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:25AM (#13468502)
    Is right here. Read on! []
  • interseting (Score:4, Funny)

    by schnits0r ( 633893 ) * <> on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:25AM (#13468503) Homepage Journal
    Mars rover Spirit climbs on top of husband....husband rolls over a minute later and lights a cigarette.
  • Beautiful Imagery (Score:2, Interesting)

    The imagery that is coming back from the Mar's missions has been truly amazing. Very detailed pictures documenting this foreign landscape. I noticed this took 14 months to climb to the top of this summit. What is the average speed these martian rovers are crawling at?
  • Full 360 picture (Score:5, Informative)

    by srw ( 38421 ) * on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:26AM (#13468511) Homepage
    The picture linked is only a 90 degree field of view. The story mentions "horizon all the way around." The picture at t/20050901b/site_A_AD_ND_cyl_360-A592R1_br.jpg [] shows the full 360.

  • by twelveinchbrain ( 312326 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:26AM (#13468514)
    Surely those must be signs of life on Mars, no?
  • by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:32AM (#13468538)
    This is clearly a fabrication by the bush adminstration to divert attention from new orleans and iraq

  • those panoramic views make great wallpaper for my multi-headed workstation.
  • by Hannah E. Davis ( 870669 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:44AM (#13468575) Journal
    I am always amazed by just how mundane pictures of Mars are. I'm not sure what I expect to see... something different anyway. Something "alien".

    But no matter how many times I look at these pictures (and others before them), part of me is always surprised to see red sand and rocky dunes that remind me of PEI and a dusky orange sky that looks just like that above any major city on a cloudy night.

    • The difference between PEI and Mars is that Mars might someday support the life of more than one human.

      But its an interesting point.... they're 'pretty pictures,' but yeah, if these were B&W, a lot of people would had a had time knowing if this was a desert somewhere or another planet.

      Science fiction, I think is to blame; always trying to make the fantastic (another planet with the possibility of LIFE that evolved totally separately from our own?) seem more fantastic (weird, semi-gravity defying spirey
      • Are these actual color pictures? From what I understand, most of the color pics coming out of NASA are actually B&W with the color added.
        • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @02:56AM (#13468952) Homepage Journal
          NASA doesn't invent colours from nothing, but that's not necessarily the same as saying that their images represent what you'd see with your eyes if you were on Mars.

          Both Mars rovers have cameras which are sensitive from the near-IR to the UV. The greyscale images are taken by putting a bandpass filter over the lens, and usually they'll take the same shot with 3-7 different filters.

          Three of the filters correspond to roughly the same frequencies that the receptors in your eyes are sensitive to. So they can approximate what it would look like in person by assigning the three images taken using those filters to the R, G, and B channels in a digital image.

          There is a bit more processing involved. Human eyes are more sensitive to green than red or blue, so the additional processing is probably to take that into account.

          But anyway, the short answer is that generally the Mars images are as "true" in terms of colour as what you'd get with a colour digital camera here, setting aside that the three channels are taken at slightly different times.

          There are a few exceptions, in that I believe sometimes they may substitute the nearest infrared band for red. If you have to pick one or the other, near IR is useful because it scatters less in an atmosphere.

          Other NASA images (like from the Hubble) are made the same way, they just assign completely different spectra to the three channels (assuming they're using an RGB model, which isn't a given). For example, maybe they'll assign radio waves to the red channel, IR to green, and X-rays to blue. Again, they're not *inventing* colours, even though it's not what you'd see with your own eyes. It's like pitch-shifting bat squeeks down into the audible range so humans can hear them.
          • You're assuming that because something reflects a lot of red light, it looks red to a human observer. That's wrong; color is not perceived that way.

            Chances are that if you were on Mars at a time when both the sky and the ground filled with red dust and no man-made objects in view, things would look fairly neutral to you, with parts of the scenery even looking greenish or bluish.

            You can think of human eyes having an auto white-balance built in, although it works rather differently from what is being used in
            • What you have said is true, but I don't see why you think this is incompatible with anything the gp said.

              This is part of the problem with 'true color' rendering: in some sense 'color' really only exists in the mind of the beholder. There is more to color than just red, green, and blue in the proper proportions.

              • What you have said is true, but I don't see why you think this is incompatible with anything the gp said.

                The gp post was technically accurate about how the pictures were constructed. But the general topic was about what Mars would look like, and it would probably look even more "normal" than the NASA pictures suggest.

                A quick color correction in the Gimp (reduce red curve, increase blue curve) yields a landscape with a fairly neutral sky, a slightly reddish sand, and neutral-to-cool rocks--something that lo
                • Why do you presume that NASA has done the color correction wrong? I understand the difficulties with color correction and getting 'true' color, but I don't see why you think your color correction is better than NASA's. I presume they do the best they can to convert their data into an accurate color image. Am I wrong on this?
                  • What NASA is showing you is the equivalent of taking a picture under incandescent light with a daylight color film (or daylight color balance). That's neither "right" nor "wrong", it's just a choice. It's a sensible choice, but it would simply probably not correspond to what you would actually perceive.
          • There are a few exceptions, in that I believe sometimes they may substitute the nearest infrared band for red. If you have to pick one or the other, near IR is useful because it scatters less in an atmosphere.

            They seem to do this more often lately, perhaps to trim costs. You can tell if they use infrared (IR) instead because you see red streaks between some of the solar panel tiles. Some of the wiring between the tiles appearently reflects heavier in IR.

            They claim they can come pretty close to the actual
            • You can tell if they use infrared (IR) instead because you see red streaks between some of the solar panel tiles. Some of the wiring between the tiles appearently reflects heavier in IR.

              Interesting. They have that colour swatch thing on the sundial as well, but it's not as easy to use as I thought it would be.

              Something else I noticed is that Mars is apparently much more uniform across wide bands of the spectrum than Earth. I had downloaded a bunch of the rover imagery to experiment with false colour systems
      • The difference between PEI and Mars is that Mars might someday support the life of more than one human.

        PEI recent population: 135,294 []

        *looks puzzled*
    • Remove yourself from the context of your comfortable, padded chair and welcoming home. Transport yourself 80 million miles away through an airless void, and arrive upon a celestial artifact, a desert planet late in life. Stunningly beautiful in its own sublime way, isn't it?

      Context is everything. Open your eyes and be amazed at what you might see.
      • Oh, I am amazed by it all, and I'm sorry if I implied anything different in my post. I just find it a wee bit unsettling that something "80 million miles away through an airless void" should look so familiar. One of my various life goals (many of which conflict with each other, so I know I won't be able to achieve most) is to work for a space agency. It doesn't really matter which one, I just want to contribute to space exploration in some meaningful way... and hopefully bring back more from Mars than pr
    • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @01:25AM (#13468702)
      That's amazing. That same photograph just took my breath away.

      It's wishful thinking, perhaps. but looking at the photograph and I imagine a place that once housed life. It might be the birthplace of life in our system and the seed planet for life on earth.

      A dead planet once alive. Conservation of information.... the entire evolutionary record of that planet is in those rocks, that dirt. It's suffocatingly exciting.

      And at once harrowing. It has no magnetic field to speak of. It must have had some form of one due to the clear volcanic/geological activity. What happened to it? When will the same thing happen here? If there was life there, did they just run out of time?

      There are finite strictures on the amount of time ones birth planet remains hospitable to you. And if you don't figure out how to get off, how to survive in space and thrive, maybe you're doomed to die with your planet.

      Some theories abound about why we haven't seen sign of intelligent life. my favorite espouses the notion that civilizations get wiped out by their own technology. What if the stricture is planetary? What if we don't see any intelligent signs because no species could survive the life cycle of their own planets?

      It puts any interest in a next-gen ipod or the new google beta in perspective.

      It's a great photograph. It fills me with that little kid feeling.... the one whe you look up a the sky and it feels like there's something there looking down at you, waiting for you to discover it.
      • But then again, what is the meaning of it all? We are just flying around in a huge universe on this little planet. To each one of us, does it really matter if the Earth will blow up 1000 years from now or millions of years from now? I, you and everyone from today will be dead.

        I get all philosophical at 2 am in the morning I guess... Seeing a picture from Mars makes me think how big the universe is and how short our lifetimes are. Then it all of the sudden seems somehow too trite and silly to worry whether

      • Here's something to think about. If a civilization did exist on mars tens of millions of years ago (or even a billion), would there likely be anything left today detectable by these rovers?

        Consider the oldest artifacts indicating anything remotely human are only a few tens of thousands of years old.
        • Like these rectangular bricks sticking off the crest of the hill, upper-left of the rover's "wing"? Neat 90 degrees :)
        • you're thinking of life in human terms. we can recall life millions of years back on earth. we've gotten pretty good at certain techniques.

          there's a lot of information there just waiting to be unearthed.
          • yes. i was specifically speaking about intelligent civilizations.

            finding fossils inside rocks is somewhat different from archaeology.

            what kind of traces of intelligent civilizations would be left after a hundred million years? after a billion?

            we can recall life _billions_ of years back on earth. recalling _intelligent civilizations_ is much harder.
            • what if we find evidence of non-intelligent civilizations? Of relatively complex organisms? Is this not sufficiently surprising and exciting?
              • that wasn't the question, nor my point.

                the point was, if a civilization existed billions of years ago, would there be any way of detecting it?

                it's also entirely possible that even if life on mars existed billions of years ago, nothing detectable may be left today.
                • Tough to keep up, as you were non-specific.

                  Conservation of information means that information is there, what is at question is merely our ability to glean said information.

                  So the question at hand isn't whether or not there exists a way of detecting it, but whether or not such means are within our grasp.

                  The existence of life in any iteration is sufficiently exciting to me and worthy of further exploration.
                  • the laws of entropy means the information may not be in any remotely recongizable form or even distinguishable from background noise.

                    i mean really, do you expect eg notes scribbled on parchment to be recognizable after a billion years? it's hard enough gleaning information from artifacts just a few thousand years old. what kind of things would a civilization have to build to survive a billion? seems to me the safest place to store data longterm would be inside a small moon placed in orbit, since geological
  • what an awesome picture! does anyone know how long these rovers are supposed to stay operational?
  • by kernel_dan ( 850552 ) <> on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:46AM (#13468582) []
    From the catalog [] page
    This approximate true-color panorama was taken by NASA's Spirit rover after it successfully trekked to the top of "Husband Hill," in the "Columbia Hills" of Gusev Crater. The "little rover that could" spent the last 14 months climbing the hills in both the forward and reverse directions to reduce wear on its wheels.

    This breathtaking view from the summit reveals previously hidden southern terrain called "Inner Basin"(center), where team members hope to direct Spirit in the future. The rover left tracks to the left point toward the west, the direction Spirit arrived from. The peaks of "McCool Hill" and "Ramon Hill," both in the "Columbia Hills," can be seen just to the left and behind Inner Basin.

    The mosaic is made up of images taken by the rover's panoramic camera over a period of three days (sols 583 to 585, or August 24 to 26, 2005). It spans about 240 degrees in azimuth, and was acquired using 51 different camera pointings and three camera filters (750, 530 and 480 nanometers). Image-to-image seams have been eliminated from the sky portion of the mosaic to better simulate what a person standing on Mars would see.
    • Waaaauu! :D Look at those solar panels! Almost no dust at all! What wasn't mentioned in the article is that Spirit's power output is now back up to ~930 Watt hours/day, the same as it was on landing day. The rover is now being shut down every day in the afternoon, no so it doesn't run out of power and die, as was the case around a year ago, but to prevent the electronics box from OVERHEATING!! Wildly successful doesn't even begin to describe the rover missions at this point :)
      • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @02:23AM (#13468858)
        we should mass produce the rovers using the same specs and retrofit with geographically specific tools. We can send up more at a time and have standing teams exploring in real time, as we're doing now, amassing data.
        • We should send up humans that can travel a lot further than three miles in a year and a half.

          The rovers have done well, no doubt. But lets get some boots on the ground.
          • Even better plan-

            Humans AND mass produced rovers.

            One guy in a hut with a crate of baked beans drives hundreds of rovers around and sends back daily uploads.

            Problems with the rover wheels? walk out there and fix it. no problem. Rover flips over? walk out there and right it.No problem.

            Guy in he hut is hit by solar flare, meteorite, runs out of oxygen and dies? Ground control takes over the rovers and runs them remotely until they die. No problem.

            I'd volunteer to be the guy if you want. I mean, it's not like t
            • See, I think you stumbled on the holy grail of space travel to other planets. We as a species have to accept that the human sent up to ther planets are on a one way trip. Part of the problem is this idea that the humans are coming back. We need to determine how we can keep humans alive for a while (this would include regular food and supplies modules in a continuous string, or maybe peppering the landing site with a ten year supply of essentials, etc). But the problem with sending humans is that society i
  • by xerid ( 235598 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#13468613)
    Wow, this looks very close to i picture I took during my cross-country trip a few years ago.

    summer trip image []

  • I wonder what the surface composition on these hills is? I know it has taken a long time to climb up to the top. Is this because the surface of Mars is slippery and the rover slides down as it tries to come up, or is the surface hard enough for an easy ascent? It looks like from the picture as if it is a mix of sandy type surface and some hard.
  • by sizzzzlerz ( 714878 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @01:08AM (#13468650)
    This fascinating book [] by the one of the creators of the Rovers as well as the principal investigator of the science mission is an absolutely fascinating tale of the tortured process leading to the birth of these explorers. He then documents the first 90 days on Mars with an almost day-by-day description of the events as they occurred. Highly recommended!
  • by jesser ( 77961 )
    Spirit let two of her fingers get in front of the lens, ruining an otherwise breathtaking photo [].
  • Well, there is clearly a city in the proximal valley of that picture. However, it looks primarily like empty parking lots.
  • Wake me when they decend into "Wife Valley"
  • It looks just like the outback in Australia.
  • by Rxke ( 644923 ) on Saturday September 03, 2005 @03:46AM (#13469096) Homepage
    If you liked this, I suggest you take a look at the incredible []
    This cross-platform donationware gem fully automatically downloads the raw imagery, auto-stitches, false-colorizes,makes slideshows... And best of all: creates "virtual-reality" pannable and zoomable panorama's...

    Everyone into these rovers should really check it out.
  • Okay, done. What now?

    See you at the party, Spirit!

  • Would have preferred to see the view from Chawla hill, but that's just how I'd do it.

  • Are those sandpeople?
  • And if they did, this is more likely what you would have seen: []

    Take it for what it's worth, but NASA has repeatedly admitted that they arbitrarily shift the color of the Mars shots to make them look more red. Why? Who knows. Trying not to confuse the public, I suppose, who expects the Red Planet to be not just red, but really really red.
  • Martian Joy (Score:2, Funny)

    by poor_boi ( 548340 )
    Hmm. That picture seems to show that there is an exposed 'joy stick'-like controller on the outside of the rover. I have to take this design decision by NASA into serious question. Didn't anyone over there consider the possibility of martians hijacking the rover and using it for their own evil purposes. The rover should be bristling with guns, not unprotected control mechanisms! I'm agape with astonishment!
  • Even the images that say "true color" or "near true color" aren't really that. From what I've read (and it was on the internet so it must be true), mars on the ground doesn't look all that different from an average arizona or nevada desert scene. In some Viking images from the 70's the sky is quite blue with white clouds. Same from pathfinder. Although during a dust storm the sky is definitely reddish, just like it is here (watched a dust storm roll across the Med from the sahara once -- made the sky a s

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.