In the movie "The martian" (2015), Mark sends an image to the JPL team asking Are you receiving me? Yes No. The JPL team then received multiple images that are then moved around. (Check gif below)

Split images

Why was the image sent like this and why didn't all the smaller images have the same size?


Because this is how Pathfinder takes images. Most of the images you see from the Pathfinder rover are many images stitched together. Some are fairly good stitches like so:

good stitch image

(Even then you can still see artifacts).

Some of them are not so good:

bad stitch image

Though the images themselves are usually the same size. Out of universe, it was most likely done because a dozen smaller images shifting around looks better and is easier to see what's going on than if they did four really big images. In universe, you could argue that the team at NASA had pre-cropped some of the images to make it easier to fit in place. In reality, they would probably use an image stitching software and we wouldn't actually see this, but that's not as entertaining.

  • Why couldn't the camera just take a full image?
    – nick zoum
    Apr 10 '20 at 13:31
  • Because Pathfinder was stuck in place and it has limited camera capabilities. It couldn't back up to get the entire area, and it can't produce images big enough to get the entire thing. Also part of the plan was to pivot the camera between the signs so Watney could communicate with the team, so having the camera circle around was part of the plan.
    – DeeV
    Apr 10 '20 at 13:39
  • @nickzoum: A smaller camera (i.e. smaller field of view or "view range") is better (engineering wise, a smaller lens = less prone to getting damaged), and if you've got enough time to stitch several images together, there's no real drawback to it.
    – Flater
    Apr 11 '20 at 21:02

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