The mars science laboratory curiosity rover mastcam instruments: Preflight and in-flight calibration, validation, and data archiving

James Bell, A. Godber, S. McNair, M. A. Caplinger, J. N. Maki, M. T. Lemmon, J. Van Beek, M. C. Malin, D. Wellington, K. M. Kinch, M. B. Madsen, Craig Hardgrove, M. A. Ravine, E. Jensen, D. Harker, R. B. Anderson, K. E. Herkenhoff, R. V. Morris, E. Cisneros, R. G. Deen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


The NASA Curiosity rover Mast Camera (Mastcam) system is a pair of fixed-focal length, multispectral, color CCD imagers mounted ~2 m above the surface on the rover’s remote sensing mast, along with associated electronics and an onboard calibration target. The left Mastcam (M-34) has a 34 mm focal length, an instantaneous field of view (IFOV) of 0.22 mrad, and a FOV of 20° × 15° over the full 1648 × 1200 pixel span of its Kodak KAI-2020 CCD. The right Mastcam (M-100) has a 100 mm focal length, an IFOV of 0.074 mrad, and a FOV of 6.8° × 5.1° using the same detector. The cameras are separated by 24.2 cm on the mast, allowing stereo images to be obtained at the resolution of the M-34 camera. Each camera has an eight-position filter wheel, enabling it to take Bayer pattern red, green, and blue (RGB) “true color” images, multispectral images in nine additional bands spanning ~400–1100 nm, and images of the Sun in two colors through neutral density-coated filters. An associated Digital Electronics Assembly provides command and data interfaces to the rover, 8 Gb of image storage per camera, 11 bit to 8 bit companding, JPEG compression, and acquisition of high-definition video. Here we describe the preflight and in-flight calibration of Mastcam images, the ways that they are being archived in the NASA Planetary Data System, and the ways that calibration refinements are being developed as the investigation progresses on Mars. We also provide some examples of data sets and analyses that help to validate the accuracy and precision of the calibration. Plain Language Summary We describe the calibration and archiving of the images being obtained from the Mastcam multispectral, stereoscopic imaging system on board the NASA Curiosity Mars rover. Calibration is critical to detailed scientific analysis of instrumental data, and in this paper we not only describe the details of the calibration process and the steps in our resulting data calibration pipeline but also present some examples of the kinds of scientific analyses and discoveries that this calibration has enabled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-452
Number of pages57
JournalEarth and Space Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Archiving
  • Earth and Space Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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