Robot Photographers Tour the Solar System

A new book showcases photos from rovers and space probes

1 min read
Robot Photographers Tour the Solar System
Photo: NASA/JPL/UMD/Michael Benson/Kinetikon Pictures

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Michael Benson/Kinetikon Pictures
Human beings may not have gone farther than Earth’s moon, but our robot minions—that is, our rovers, satellites, and space probes—have voyaged throughout the solar system. And they’ve brought cameras. Michael Benson’s stunning new book, Planetfall: New Solar System Visions (Abrams), showcases their photographic efforts. This image, taken by the Mars rover Opportunity at Victoria Crater, shows the rover’s tire tracks in the foreground.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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