Monday, May 19, 2008

Flying Over Mars

Next Sunday, on May 25, the Phoenix Mars Mission is supposed to land on Mars.

In the meantime, here is fancy animation of a flight over the Columbia Hills on Mars, via the Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The animation, by Doug Ellison, Randolph Kirk (USGS), MSSS / MER / NASA, combines real topographical data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with information about the Spirit Mars Rover, making its appearance at 1:45 in the movie...

More about the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity and Phoenix at the Planetary Society. The Planetary Society Weblog also has links to QuickTime versions of the movie.

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  1. It will land, dig a hole, dump stuff into its maw a la Robby the Robot and bourbon... NASA will make excuses, then demand more studies are necessary.

    If we examine Mars we will gain a deeper understanding of solar system formation, terrestrial weather, evolution, GOD... and making light yet chewy Kässpätzle to die for.

  2. If anyone liked the music better than the animation (I sure did!) you can find a double album from that group here for the awesome price of free:

    The animation was quite cool too, although the colours didn't seem right to me..

  3. The music is indeed interesting, I might check it out. Unfortunately, in many cases if one buys a full album of that kind it turns out it's pretty monotonous.

    Anyway, it's quite impressive they used the real topographical data. Though one has to know it to be impressed. I think I could randomize such a surface in PovRay and simulate a 'flight' over it with considerably less effort ;-)

  4. Thanks for the hint about the music! I admit, when I started the movie at youtube, the first thing I did was turning off the sound, but true, it fits the animation...

    I am not sure about the colours, but I guess they have tried to make them realistic. BTW, this QuickTime movie (12 MB) has a much better quality...

    Cheers, Stefan

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  6. Hi Stefan,

    Thanks for the update and reminder on the Phoenix Mars Mission. The pink sky certainly is something one would like to see for themselves, yet this gets one a little closer to what it all would be like. I also enjoyed the sound track but I have to tell you that the theme music for 2001 Space Odyssey is hard to top when I look at such alien landscapes. Phoenix has a lot to live up to with the unparalleled success of the Rovers. It’s hard to fathom that after more than 4 years Spirit and Opportunity are still going strong. They make the Energizer bunny look like a light weight:-)

    Just as a related aside in the public lecture that Prof. Gerald ‘t Hooft presented at PI last month he gave a lot of attention to what would be the most reasonable, sustainable and viable approach for near planetary exploration and eventual settlement. His take is that we shouldn’t be in a rush to put a few people on Mars at great expense in the near future, yet rather spend the money developing robots with artificial intelligence to first explore, locate resource and build the initial long term research and later settlements for humans on the moon. After this the same plan could be extended using largely the moons resources to Mars and beyond. He explained the current public /political will and focus still largely rests with the Buck Rogers mentally. This gives one a few “whey to go we did its” and yet is not sustainable or long term in its approach.

    He then wondered how to have people actually realize that a at first glance less appealing approach is actually the most beneficial in terms of developing science, technology and actually pushing humanity’s presence beyond our own planet. I’ll tell you I’m with t’Hooft on this one, yet also fear that foolish pride and politics will hold sway over sound scientific reasoning.



  7. "Anyway, it's quite impressive they used the real topographical data. Though one has to know it to be impressed. I think I could randomize such a surface in PovRay and simulate a 'flight' over it with considerably less effort ;-)"

    I've pasted images from the Rovers on my office door and a friend said they just look like western U.S. I said maybe BUT they are still pictures from Mars.

  8. I find it funny to hear ' they' as if this is a NASA video. It isn't. the DATA is from Nasa, but I'm just a guy from the UK who does animation from time to time. The most up to date ( and probably final ) version is to be found here :

  9. Hi Doug,

    thanks for dropping in - it's great to have the actual creator of the animation commenting here!

    I wasn't quite sure if and how you are related to NASA or space science... is it basically correct to describe you as a space enthusiast with a professional background as a multimedia producer?

    I really liked the movie - thanks for the update!

    So, according to the entry in your website, colours for the martian landscape come from HiRISE photos - are these true colour images?

    Thanks for the reference to the paper on the Chromaticity of the Martian sky and the link to the Pancam team and John Bell - I had brwosed through his Postcards from Mars in a bookstore lately, the photos are breathtaking!

    Cheers, Stefan

  10. The colour is generated entirely artificially. HiRISE only has pseudo-color across the middle 1/5th of it's 20,000 pixel wide images. Thus for this very large terrain map - the texture was greyscale. To try and bring some colour into it, I simply illuminated it in a 'martian' way with a roughly appropriate colour to the lighting. It's not ideal - I'd like the ground to be a darker, more saturated brown overall - but it's not too bad - it sits well as it is.

    And yes - just a space enthusiast who produces medical e-learning multimedia assets by day, and runs by night.


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