Watch: Curiosity’s Fall in Ultra-Smooth High Definition

The media and scientific-minded have been abuzz since August 6, when the Curiosity Mars Rover made its descent to the Martian surface. A video of Curiosity’s landing were released by NASA during which the machine slowed from 13,000 miles to hour to nothing, deployed a supersonic parachute, ejected its heat shield, then ejected its parachute in favor of using vertical rocket boosters to lower it, then deploying a sky crane1 to ease the rover to the surface. Unfortunately NASA’s video from the MARDI down-facing camera on Curiosity only captured the event at paltry four frames per second.

To improve upon the footage NASA released, Bard Canning spend four weeks processing the video with motion-flow interpolation allowing him to manually add thousands of intermediary frames to bring the total frame-rate up to a smooth and standard 30 frames per second. But Canning didn’t stop there. Using industry pan and scan techniques, Canning upgraded the footage to 50,000kbps 1080p resolution, enhanced the colors, and recreated detail. Canning also, somewhat disappointingly, added sound effects to the video. How ever accurate these sounds may seem on Earth, they do not represent the reality of sound under Mars’s meager atmosphere.

Watch the video in 1080p HD. It makes all the difference

“My aim with this video was to bring the wonder of the Mars Science Laboratory mission to a wider audience,” Canning told Talking Points Memo. The extensive work he did slightly degrades the authenticity of the video. Canning continued in defense of his work, “To this end, I had to make the video a little more ‘Hollywood’ than its previous incarnations. I expected some backlash for this, but as you can see, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Canning has talked with multiple people at NASA about the video and one even asked if they could use it in their promo materials.

Canning also released a video showing the original NASA footage compared side-by-side to his work. The difference is flabbergasting.

1The sky crane maneuver was one of the most exciting and complicated components in Curiosity’s landing. About one mile from the planet’s surface, the back-shell of the craft, which was connected to the parachute and other shields detached from the craft. At this point, there are two components of the descending craft left: the Descent Stage, and the rover itself. The DS is equipped with rocket boosters that fire near vertically to slowly lower the coupled machines toward the ground. (In the previous rover landings, the bot landed on top of the descent stage but due to Curiosity’s mass, this wasn’t a realistic tactic. Being suspended by the DS offers the benefit of not needing to design the rover to handle high impact when its suspension is optimized for crawling the surface. In short, it leaves the landing process to the DS and the research to the rover without mixing the two.) When the coupling is 66 feet from the surface, the rover is lowered from the DS on three nylon cables to hang 24 feet below. While the cable is spooling out, the coupled devices are still descending at 2.4 feet per second. An umbilical control cord connects Curiosity to the DS and ensures that the boosters keep them descending at 2.4 feet per second. When the ground is supporting Curiosity, the force on the DS immediately decreases. Curiosity’s computer checks for one second to see if the force remains off. If it does, pyro cutters are fired severing the three nylon cables between Curiosity and the descent stage. The three cables, which are on springs, retract into the DS. Curiosity transfers control over to the DS’s computer and the umbilical is severed. The DS hovers for an instant, fires its boosters vertically for a control period, pitches them 45 degrees, the kills the burn letting the DS crash back to the Martian surface safely away from the rover.


Talking Points Memo

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