Space Tech of the Week: Pancam and Gigapan

What is it?: NASA technology developed to take pictures on Mars used to take the 1,474 megapixel panoramic photo of President Obama’s inauguration .

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University designed a special high-resolution camera for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The camera (Pancam) was designed so that scientists on Earth could take panoramic pictures in very high resolution. The camera was able to tilt 180 degrees and rotate 360 degrees. Special software then stitched individual 1-megapixel images together into a high-resolution panorama. This allowed geologists to see the Martian landscape as if they were there on the ground. If they saw something interesting in the distance they then were able to zoom in and take a closer look.

After its successful application on Mars Pancam’s technology was then taken by employees from NASA’s Ames Research Center, Carnegie Mellon University, and Charmed Labs LLC to produce the Earth based Gigapan camera which was used for the inauguration photo.

Gigapan has also been used to create photographic overlays for Google Earth of areas affected by natural disasters (such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake). This allows relief workers to pinpoint areas in need of assistance.

Source: Science @ NASA

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