We’ve all seen some breath-taking images of the Mars landscape taken by Curiosity, but until now we haven’t had a chance to appreciate the rover’s own good looks. Most of us are used to taking our self-portraits using the bathroom mirror (or a front-facing camera if you don’t mind the low quality), but Curiosity has earned the distinction of taking the first vanity pic from another planet using its MAHLI camera.
In the picture that proves we’re already living in the future, we get a great view of Curiosity’s face that’s very reminiscent of Pixar’s adorable and strangely anthropomorphic robot from Wall-E. It’s an oddly hypnotic photo, driving home the reality that robots are no longer stuck in the pages of science fiction novels.
To break down what we’re seeing (the rover’s mast or head), let’s clear up the misconception that the circular piece of glass on the right-hand side of the photo is Curiosity’s eye. The rover actually has four “eyes”, which we’ll get to in a minute, but the big lens up there is a bad-ass piece of equipment. According to NBC, the “eye” is actually an incredibly powerful laser capable of vaporizing rock. On top of that, it’s able to record the chemical signature contained in the flash of light created by the vaporization. The smaller bits below Curiosity’s “face” are various cameras responsible for taking some gorgeous photos of the Mars vista. The four smaller ones are the high-resolution Navcam imagers that snap pictures in black-and-white. The two larger ones make up the Mastcam imaging system, able to take photos in full color.
The original picture wasn’t as clear as the touched-up one above due to Curiosity’s dust-cover that has yet to be removed, it was also taken from an inverted angle. Thankfully, the old image was retouched, rotated, and cleaned up by Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society. Lakdawalla improved the image for a recent blog entry where she also created a humorous meme from the photo that you should definitely take a look at.
There will be more, higher quality self-portraits released in the coming weeks after the dust-cap is removed and Curiosity finds some more time to snap personal pics. Who knows, maybe the Mars rover will go down in history not for braving the new frontiers of another planet, but for being the first robot to learn how to take a flattering profile photo.