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Video Friday: Scary UAVs, Friendly Exoskeletons, and Cheetah Gets a Tail

Curiosity self-portrait. Larger version here.

It's been a huge week for robots. Hopefully, you were able to follow along with us at JPL while we watched Curiosity land, and the landing, while arguably the most exciting part, is just the beginning of the awesomeness that we're expecting to come from the robot as it starts exploring Mars. We'll keep bringing you updates (albeit at a slightly less frantic pace) as Curiosity starts to drive around, and we're already planning a trip back to JPL to learn more about her autonomous capabilities.

Meanwhile, we've been neglecting some other robots a little bit since we've been covering Mars 24/7, so let's get caught up on everything else that's been going on with today's Video Friday.

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Curiosity Lifts Up Its Head

And it's up! Curiosity has lifted up the mast containing its main navigational cameras and has snapped this view of the rim of Gale Crater (Curiosity's landing site) using the rover's right Navcam.

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'Crime Scene' Photo Shows Curiosity Landing Site

curiosity rover crime scene landing site

Yesterday we saw one of the most spectacular space photographs ever taken: A view of Curiosity and its supersonic parachute descending through the Martian atmosphere. That's right: NASA not only put a robot on Mars but also took a picture of the thing as it was landing.

The photo was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and unveiled by Sarah Milkovich, investigation scientist with MRO's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Today Milkovich unveiled another fascinating HiRISE photo, showing what she called the "crime scene" of the landing site.

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First Color Image from Curiosity in Descent Phase [UPDATE 2: VIDEO]

We've been expecting to see an image from the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) sometime today (that would be, Sol 1 for Curiosity on Mars), and here it is, more amazing than we could ever have imagined. You're seeing one single low resolution thumbnail from a video looking straight down that MARDI recorded between the time that the heat shield detached and the time that Curiosity touched down, showing the shield dropping away from Curiosity as she heads for the surface. And there's more.


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Curiosity Hazcam Images May Show Crater Rim, Slopes of Mt. Sharp [UPDATED]

 The green diamond in this image represents JPL's current best guess as to Curiosity's landing spot on Mars, with the landing ellipse in blue. The green shaded areas (estimated by IEEE Spectrum) represent the field of view of Curiosity's Hazcams.

Last night, there was some speculation about just what exactly was visible on the horizon in the first Hazcam pics from Curiosity. After some additional late-night (or rather, early morning) analysis, the MSL team has some guesses about what we're looking at, along with an estimate of Curiosity's position on the surface. In other words: we now know approximately where the rover is, as well as which way she's facing, which makes what we're seeing in the Hazcam images [UPDATE: check out a brand new front Hazcam image below!] that much more amazing.

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Snaps Spectacular Pic of MSL's Descent

This image, revealed at the 9AM post-landing press conference at JPL, has to be one of the most spectacular space pictures ever taken, ever. It was captured last night by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and unveiled by Sarah Milkovich, investigation scientist with MRO's HiRISE camera. It shows MSL about six minutes into its descent, heading towards the surface at Gale Crater. Wow.

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Curiosity Rover Alive and Well on Surface of Mars

The post-landing press conference turned out to be less of a press conference, and more of a chance for the entire MSL team to celebrate and accept congratulations from each other and the rampant adulation of their fans (all of us in the media, me definitely included). Don't hold it against them, they totally deserved it. We do know that as far as the data indicate, everything has gone very well, and Curiosity appears to be in perfect health. It'll take a few days to really check everything out, and we'll get an update tomorrow (er, later today) at 9am and then again at 4pm, with the 4pm briefing likely to be the most interesting (and most picture-filled). 

We'll be back tomorrow morning to keep on bringing you all the news as it happens, but to tide you over until then, have a look at one more picture from Curiosity's hazcam:

See that feature at the upper right? It could be a mountain. Or it could be the rim of Gale Crater. They're not quite sure, but tomorrow, we may find out.

Curiosity Sends Back Surprise Hazcam Pics

Here are a pair of images from Curiosity's left rear hazcam and left front hazcam, respectively. We weren't expecting any front hazcam images this early, and we also weren't expecting such high resolution images, so this is really really amazing, and here at JPL people are going nuts. Oh, and they're also handing out Mars bars.

As soon as we're done being nuts and scarfing candy, we'll get settled in for the press conference, which should be full of good news! We'll likely have an update for you before midnight.

The official landing time, for those of you keeping track, was 10:32PM. And at least from here, it looked like everything went almost flawlessly.



IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
Jason Falconer
Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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