Your Phone Camera has Probably Got More Pixels than NASA’s Curiosity Rover

curiosity rover cameraIf your phone has got a camera of more than 2 megapixels, then your phone camera is better than the cameras of the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover of NASA which recently landed on planet Mars days ago. Why? During a recent interview, the camera project manager of Curiosity, Mike Ravine said:

“These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don’t get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn’t sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn’t compare well to what you get in an iPhone today.”

And Mike is right. Cameras in phones weren’t very good then and took blurry images so a 2mp camera with 8Gb flash memory would’ve sounded great then. Furthermore, it was kept 2 megapixel (and not more) to make efficient use of bandwidth required to transmit images. Budget also played its role for the NASA to keep this camera at 2 MP.

Just in case if you are wondering, Curiosity Rover uses UHF transmitter for sending data to two spacecraft orbiting Mars, which relay the data back to earth at not more than 10 MB per hour. Understandably, this 10 MB per hour data is shared by various instruments including the 2 MP camera.

Compare that to today and even dumb-phones come with at least 3 megapixel cameras.

Smartphones with 8 megapixel cameras are considered flagships and anything less than 5 megapixels is unacceptable. We’ve even got a 41 megapixel smartphone, the 808 Pureview from Nokia. But really, those were the days.


  • The image quality doesn’t depends upon “pixels” alone.

    • Vicky

      That’s true. It’s the Pixel Density that counts towards the quality, not the pixels.

  • i am comfortable with curiosity camera :P
    and btw Thanx to NASA and US Government.

    • Faisal Raza

      hahaha kis chez ka thx Qadoos bhai?? 2.5 billion ager Somalia, aur poor Africans pe kharch kar diyay jate tu kya he acha hota. These are investments for nothing. Muslims ka oil ka paisa lo aur Mars aur Mercury pe jao lol. I know I am going out of topic but there is nothing for thx

      • Ahmed

        +1 for Faisal.
        No thanks to US Govt. history proved that they acheived nothing by their moon project 60 years back reaching moon, did they?They just wanted to tell rest of the world that we are so called “super power”.

        • rehman

          its there money why cant they spend!agay peechay woh interfere karein to america sab ka mama hai!or jb paisay ki baat ayay to spend on muslim countries wah!!hypocrisy?

          • Faisal Raza

            @Rehman bhai, thori research kar lain ap America pe phir bolyay ga. America ki economy Pakistan jaisi hai janab, produce kya karta hai US, just arms to be used on Muslims. Baqi sary paise jahil Muslim nations k hain jo apni oil ki income wahan deposit karte hain aur US uss ko he hum pe use karta hai, pata wata hota nahe hai kuch chamcha giri karne a jate hain.

            • Syed Ali Raza

              Yes you are right Faisal Raza. USA and its child Israel both are biggest enemy of Muslims and piece of this world. I guess Who ever is favouring US he must be child of him. Otherwise whole world knows the truth and its hidden so its waste of time to let them understand which is already cleared. They have eyes with blinds. Its already in Quran. Sura-e-Yaseen. “In k agey bhi tooq hain aur peechy bhi daen bhi aur baen bhi na yeh adey dekh sakty hain na pechy na daen na baeen” I hope this is enough for reference.

              • Shahid Saleem

                Right now the biggest enemies are the ones eating our economy: OUR ELECTED RULERS. OUR BUREAUCRACY. THE IDIOTS NOT GIVING ALL OF THEIR EFFORT TO BUILDING HYDRO DAMS AND SOLAR PLANTS. 100% of them live inside this country and 100% of them are the same nationality as you and me.

                Despite all the chances we have had to get rid of them, they kept getting voted back in.

                You talk of verses, here’s a verse for you: Al Anfal verse 53.

            • Shahid Saleem

              — America ki economy Pakistan jaisi hai janab

              Ha ha oh man

              You are so DELUDED.

              I bet you are one of those people who think America will be broken into pieces in a few years.

              Why does any story mentioning the US bring out the crazies? I wonder.

            • Ali

              sab say baray dushman humaray Muslims khud hi hain. Libya or Syria ke khilaaf operation me Saudi Arabia hi support karraha hai U.S Government ko. Agar U.S Government waqai hamaray khilaaf hai to hamaray log bhi kuch sahi nahi foran unke tattoo ban jaatay hain. Sorry for bad words.

        • waqar

          it is never purposeless…
          they are probably looking for new types of minerals, metals or sources of energy.

          once they land on a planet and discover alternate sources of energy or maybe even precious metals or stones they will find out ways to extract it and use it to further increase their wealth and power.
          think of it as an investment ;)

          • Shahid Saleem

            — they are probably looking for new types of minerals, metals or sources of energy.

            http://static.themetapicture.com/media/funny-America-Mars-aliens-oil.jpg

            But really, there is a theory that a lot of Moon rock has more Helium-3 isotope than on Earth. If we can mine it, it will be easier to build fusion reactors, which, unlike fission nuclear reactors, are CLEAN.

        • Shahid Saleem

          — No thanks to US Govt. history proved that they acheived nothing by their moon project 60 years back reaching moon, did they?

          Here is one list: http://curiosity.discovery.com/topic/physics-concepts-and-definitions/ten-nasa-inventions.htm

          But I know you are too blinded by irrational hatred to consider alternatives to your viewpoint.

      • Shahid Saleem

        — I know I am going out of topic but there is nothing for thx

        You left out:

        I know I am going out of topic __on a US-developed internet, posting on a site hosted in the US, using a browser developed in the US, written with technology developed in the US__ but there is nothing for thx

        • Faisal Raza

          Shahid Bhai, Visa chahiye kya apko US ka jo itni support kar rahay ho? I was not talking about giving funds to Pakistan, there are much much more poor nations than in Pakistan. Alhumdulilah we have people here in Pakistan who can help Pakistanis when ever they need. I was talking about rest of the world. I will post one Youtube video link here than you can see that the people in US and others in Europe are talking about all these issues which I tried to post in the comment.

          You are probably one of those who actually know all the facts but when read others comment against your papa nation you start favouring them. Itna jazbat acha nahe hota hai :D. I will pray for your visa :-D

          • Faisal Raza

            And Yes, I use chrome, internet and hosting which is hosted in US, I using cell phone made not by Pakistan, use all gadgets made not by Pakistan, and I am proud Alhumdulilah to work in a situation for where there is half a day electricity breakdown but still manage to work for European market bring foreign currency to my country “PAKISTAN” and than buy all these gadgets FROM PAKISTANI Market.

          • Shahid Saleem

            — You are probably one of those who actually know all the facts

            Yes. And the #1 fact is: look at unemployment in Pakistan. It is close to 20% in some parts, especially rural.

            20%.

            1 in 5 unemployed.

            And that is not even taking into account the UNDERemployed, which is also very high.

            Now compare with the US, and tell me what their percentage is? With all the financial crisis in 2007, 2008, 2009, how high did it go? And is unemployment going down there? Or here?

            Facts: not your friends, but mine.

            — still manage to work for European market bring foreign currency to my country “PAKISTAN” and than buy all these gadgets FROM PAKISTANI Market.

            So you bring money in to send it out again, and you think you are doing anyone a favor??

            — Although their states / cities are collapsing I think you have not gone through that news :)

            They are NOT. Really, you do not understand economies at all if you think a few cities going bankrupt is the problem. Can you tell me of ANY SINGLE CITY IN PAKISTAN that operates within its budget? THERE IS NONE.

            Also, please do not delude the casual readers of this blog by pointing to California. Everyone who DOES KNOW about the US knows that the budget problems in California are very different from any other state in the US, all because of a state law passed in the 1970s.

            — If you got enough time to research in negative point on them than please read the comments in this youtube video too :)

            Oh yes, that BASTION OF FORMAL EDUCATION that is youtube comments. Wow. If you depend on blog or youtube comments (including mine :):):) for education, YOU LOSE.

            • Faisal Raza

              Hahaha that is why I am ignoring your comment now :p..

              And BTW yes, i am giving favour to my govt by brining foreign currency you probably have an idea what foreign currency mean for the govt, and yes I am sending back the money back to them by purchasing their gadgets but of course by doing this few bucks are earned by the shop keeper in Pakistan too :)

              Your have taken this discussion to another way, I was not talking about Pakistan at all, my point was to help other nations from MUSLIMS money.

              Just for your information the next thing US will bring to help them is war against “Aliens” I will not go into dept of it you can google it :).

              Conclusion :
              Discussion ended :-D you have your own point of view and I have my own.

  • Fakhre alam

    Well they dont need it higher than 2mp because of the bandwidth issue

  • NASA is a cheater company, I don’t believe them after proving that they made fake video of moon-landing.

    • Shahid Saleem

      There is no such proof.

      • Watch complete documentary here..!!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5MVVtFYTSo

        • Shahid Saleem

          Ha ha, just because some old people are “convinced” that man never went to the moon doesn’t mean they’re worth listening to.

          Scientists have shot lasers at mirrors on the moon (placed there by the same people you say never WENT to the moon). So I ask you, how did the mirrors get there? Or are you going to say the lasers are a hoax, too?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmVxSFnjYCA

  • kashif

    The iphone camera will only take photos on earth light. mars camera requires special requirements

  • Farrukh

    lol if the images weren’t blurry then people will know that they r not on Mars , it was done intentionally !!

  • Yasir

    Nice Comparison USA have Curiosity Rover with 2 MP Camera, we have 41 MP Cell Phones. Sir jee Dunya Mars pa punch gee ha, ap abi ider he ha

  • Why Didn’t they change the design of 2004 in 2012..?

  • Sweet Dee

    Meri jaan, 8mp cameras (DSLRs) were available back in 2004 as well.

    There are a multitude of reasons why they don’t have a better camera.

    1. Costs. NASA likes to use stuff that’s tried and true and has been tested extensively. If they went for the newest camera everytime, they never would have been able to send Curiosity to Mars due to the extensive testing. Sometimes you just have to pick a spec and move on.

    2. The requirements of the camera were stringent. The camera had to be able to withstand high-gs, varying temps, radiation, etc which also ties into costs because they had to come up with the proper enclosure and testing for this.

    3. Power requirements. The camera has to share a finite power source with multiple components.

  • waqar

    why are they comparing these with camera phones only?

    7MP digital cameras were easily available in 2004 and were very small in size. The Sony T1 was available in 2003 with 5.0MP

    sounds like poor planning by NASA…

    • Shahid Saleem

      — sounds like poor planning by NASA…

      Yes, I am sure you could do better planning than a company that routinely launches probes and satellites into space. I’m certain you could do a better job, with all your experience with outer space exploration.

  • Yaar tum log camera par lar rahy ho wo mars par ponch gaye hain. Kitny tou intelligent aur hard worker hain.

  • Nabeel

    Pointless article!

    So what if it is 2MP? The images started coming right after it landed on ANOTHER PLANET!

    What good is a 8MP Camera on my mobile compared to a 2MP Camera which is sending images of MARS!

  • Waqas Ahmad Khan

    Here is Panonamic picture taken by curiosity cam….:P

    http://www.panoramas.dk/mars/greeley-haven.html

  • pyari

    OMG, it’s a joke for the people living in 2012 but as far as I can think in 2004 I was reading in class 4th so I’ve not a slightest idea what kinda technology there was in those days p: btw, the thing which is tickling my mind is, can’t they bring back there satellite & fix a brandnew 45mP camera in it? Or can’t send their astronauts there with a new camera in their costumes? Don’t crack a joke please if even my questions sound stupid ’cause my Instinct says, the questions I’ve asked above are the world’s most stupidest questions ever ._.

  • Arslan

    But I wonder how could you compare a cell phone camera with a camera that will work in various differences like temperature, light condition and other such conditions. :0

  • Aslam

    I hope that no one would object to having an informed discussion on this topic. Let’s start with the number of cameras on the Curiosity rover. There are a total of 17 cameras. Yes, all of the cameras have the same spec of CCD which is 1600 x 1200. As rightly pointed out Muhammad Zubair Chohan number of pixels alone cannot determine the quality of video. The 17 cameras on the Curiosity rover have different functions and their focal length varies depending on the purpose. BTW I did not find any mention of the MastCam in this article which takes hi-definition video at 720p. One of the considerations was bandwidth needed for transmitting images. For further details, visit jpl.nasa.gov.

    @ Adnan: And the earth is flat. Right?

    • Saif

      Agreed.

      I was also about to reply to this thread, as there are number of points that should need to be mentioned before such a “research”-less article, copied from some international publisher. Actually, Camera that is being used on Rover also comprises a suite of remote sensing instruments, including the LIBS system to be used for planetary science and a remote micro-imager. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 meters away, VAPORIZING A SMALL AMOUNT OF IT with about 50 to 75 nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then collecting a spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock under UV. That is one of the basic and important functionality of that camera.

      I assume everyone praising their camera phones can do this with their cells. huh?

  • Azeem

    I dint get the point this article wants to make .. :S

  • Aswad

    Pointless article…it should have been a Facebook Status only….on top of it series of clueless comments ….
    they landed a damn 1 ton robot on far away planet and people are focussing NASA should have spent money wisely ….common people… and Btw people thinking USA’s economy is like our …seriously? their 1 company is worth so much that you will get tired counting its figures…

    face the reality istead of making useless comments …

  • mobile prices in pakistan

    camera is not bad man .. they are sending picture in lowest resulation becoz they are sending those pics from 67 million km

  • ahmad

    what a joke mr. writer
    that cam taking pux on mars not in ur hand

  • Sumair

    10 MB per hour?????? Dayum!! :-/

    • Shahid Saleem

      Yes, I know! It’s amazing that it is better than PTCL DSL.

  • Khalid Amin

    Everyone cursing NASA for not having better camera than 2Mpx in 2004.

    Go search for HiRISE.

    its a camera in Mars orbit since 2006 and sending 2520 Mpx ( Yes 2 Giga px ) images of Mars surface back to earth. Each image of size 1.2 Gigabits.

    • Shahid Saleem

      Wrong. It is even more impressive than that! 11.2 Gigabits, after compression.

  • Zaid hamid to faisal raza

    @faisal raza: shabaash habibi.. Lagy raho. En ki aqal thikany laga do. Apna sara knowledge edhar he jhaar do. Akhir kaar tum internationaly recognised economist + defence analyst + mere chely ho.. Lagy raho lagy raho.. Neesto nabood kr do jo bhi tumhari ankhen kholny ki koshesh kry. Baqi sub bewaqoof hyn sirf tum he mere jiger habibi faisal raza aqal rakhty ho.

  • Muhammad Saad

    We don’t need America’s money to help out brothers. We have our own (in swiss banks) :D

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