Rockwell Collins Cameras Transmitting Images from Mars Rover

By Dave DeWitte, Reporter

This image released on Wednesday Aug. 8, 2012 by NASA, shows a mosaic of the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters. (AP Photo/NASA)

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By Kara Kelly

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The first images sent from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity to earth Sunday were taken on lens assemblies from Rockwell Collins.

"It was particularly exciting for us to see that the first images the rover transmitted back to Earth were coming from our lens assemblies,” said Phillip Howard, a principal program manager for Rockwell Collins' Optronics business in Carlsbad, Calif., which produced the assemblies.

The rover was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Nov. 26 and landed on Mars earlier this week. It will spend 98 weeks in the Gale Crater area of Mars seeking evidence that the planet once supported life.

The is equipped with 12 Rockwell Collins lens assemblies, including eight Hazcams and four Navcams.

The Hazcams are mounted near the rover’s wheels and are used to detect obstacles in Curiosity’s path. The Hazcams also are used to generate 3D images to plan motion of the rover's robotic arm, according to Rockwell Collins.

The Hazcams also are used to generate 3D images to plan motion of the rover's robotic arm. The Navcams are located on the rover’s mast and are used to provide black and white images with a broader view of the landscape.

The optic systems are one of the few components on the rover that hasn't been significantly redesigned from previous missions, according to Howard. He said it's good to see the product has maintained the standard necessary to function in the extreme climate of Mars.

Although it's provided optics to previous space missions, Rockwell Collins is best known as supplier of communications gear used by astronauts on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The company's work included supplying the gear that brought voice and video signals back to earth from the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first man on the moon in 1969.

“The Carlsbad team is very proud to continue our company’s legacy of participation in space exploration,” Optronics Director Janet Zeidler said in prepared remarks.
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