The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mast cameras and Descent imager: Investigation and instrument descriptions

Michal C. Malin, Michael A. Ravine, Michael A. Caplinger, F. Tony Ghaemi, Jacob A. Schaffner, Justin N. Maki, James F. Bell, James F. Cameron, William E. Dietrich, Kenneth S. Edgett, Laurence J. Edwards, James B. Garvin, Bernard Hallet, Kenneth E. Herkenhoff, Ezat Heydari, Linda C. Kah, Mark T. Lemmon, Michelle E. Minitti, Timothy S. Olson, Timothy J. ParkerScott K. Rowland, Juergen Schieber, Ron Sletten, Robert J. Sullivan, Dawn Y. Sumner, R. Aileen Yingst, Brian M. Duston, Sean McNair, Elsa H. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


The Mars Science Laboratory Mast camera and Descent Imager investigations were designed, built, and operated by Malin Space Science Systems of San Diego, CA. They share common electronics and focal plane designs but have different optics. There are two Mastcams of dissimilar focal length. The Mastcam-34 has an f/8, 34 mm focal length lens, and the M-100 an f/10, 100 mm focal length lens. The M-34 field of view is about 20° × 15° with an instantaneous field of view (IFOV) of 218 μrad; the M-100 field of view (FOV) is 6.8° × 5.1° with an IFOV of 74 μrad. The M-34 can focus from 0.5 m to infinity, and the M-100 from ~1.6 m to infinity. All three cameras can acquire color images through a Bayer color filter array, and the Mastcams can also acquire images through seven science filters. Images are ≤1600 pixels wide by 1200 pixels tall. The Mastcams, mounted on the ~2 m tall Remote Sensing Mast, have a 360° azimuth and ~180° elevation field of regard. Mars Descent Imager is fixed-mounted to the bottom left front side of the rover at ~66 cm above the surface. Its fixed focus lens is in focus from ~2 m to infinity, but out of focus at 66 cm. The f/3 lens has a FOV of ~70° by 52° across and along the direction of motion, with an IFOV of 0.76 mrad. All cameras can acquire video at 4 frames/second for full frames or 720p HD at 6 fps. Images can be processed using lossy Joint Photographic Experts Group and predictive lossless compression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-539
Number of pages34
JournalEarth and Space Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Curiosity
  • MSL
  • Mars
  • Mastcam
  • cameras

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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