An in-flight camera check on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft turned on illumination sources that are part of the Curiosity rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument. This is the resulting image from the MAHLI camera, confirming the health of the camera and the instrument's visible-light LEDs (light emitting diodes). The test did not use the camera's focusing mechanism, which remains in a "launch lock" position to protect it during the spacecraft's descent and landing at Mars.
Blue-green dots in the right half of the image are reflections of the LEDs. Cabling and a cable bracket on the rover's arm, seen out-of-focus, are illuminated by MAHLI's LEDs in the left half of the image. During the flight to Mars, Curiosity is encapsulated within an aeroshell that will protect it during the descent through Mars' atmosphere. Other camera tests during the flight have confirmed electrically that cameras are operating, but have been taken in total darkness, yielding no visible images.
MAHLI is one of the tools on a turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. It is an adjustable-focus, color camera to be used on Mars for close-up examination of Martian rocks and soils, and for other imaging from various positions of the arm.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission launched on Nov. 26, 2011, and will deliver the rover Curiosity to Gale Crater on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, Universal Time and EDT (night of Aug. 5, PDT). With MAHLI and nine other science instruments, Curiosity will investigate whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, supplied MAHLI and three other cameras for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Curiosity.