No, the selfies you see of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover with the Ingenuity Helicopter are not computer-generated, just taken in a very clever way. How so? The selfie required the work of a dozen people, including rover drivers, engineers who ran tests at JPL, and camera operations engineers who developed the camera sequence, processed the images, as well as stitched them together. Before it even happened, it took the team around a week to plot out all the individual commands required. Read more for a video and additional information.
To make it happen, JPL collaborated with Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego, which built and operates WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering), the camera used for the selfie. It’s designed mainly for capturing close-up detail shots of rock textures, and not wide-angle images. This means that each image WATSON takes covers only a small portion of a scene, thus requiring the engineers to command the rover to take dozens of individual images to produce the selfie.
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I got into this because I saw a picture from Sojourner, NASA’s first Mars rover. When we took that first selfie, we didn’t realize these would become so iconic and routine,” said Vandi Verma, Perseverance’s chief engineer for robotic operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.