In all the years I’ve been blogging I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I would be naming a file “mars-rover-penis.jpg” but that’s exactly what the file name of the image above is. Yes this image is real and yes the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) even put it on its website.
In what, one would imagine, has to be the first example of interplanetary sophomoric graffiti rover operators at JPL have just inspired a whole new generation of kids with the possibilities of science. Where else might we find penis doodles in our Solar System in the future? For now we can only dream of the possibilities.
The image was used to explain the different ways the rover can navigate on the surface of Mars.
The Mars Exploration Rovers have traversed more than 10 kilometers over the Martian surface, using a combination of vision-enhanced autonomous drives and simple directed moves in which operators tell them where to go and motions are executed without taking pictures. When driving autonomously, MER vehicles use cameras to look ahead and avoid potential problems using Stereo Vision and GESTALT (Grid-based Estimation of Surface Traversability Applied to Local Terrain). Also, the imagery can be used with Visual Odometry software, to track features in the terrain and measure how much the rover has slipped during drives on soft or highly sloped terrain. Using these machine-vision technologies, each MER vehicle drives more safely, covers larger distances per day, and reaches further science targets. Roughly 30% of the distance driven by MER vehicles in their first 18 months was accomplished using these autonomous robotics technologies.
This may be the 12 year old kid in me but somehow this image makes the entire Mars expedition completely worth while for me.