Camera context for MSL images

Curiosity has taken over 30,000 images so far in its first four months on Mars. The rover has covered about 700 meters of terrain to date and it can be a challenge to figure out just where a given image was taken from in Gale Crater. The official NASA raw images website doesn’t provide information on where the images were taken or in what direction the camera was pointing.

Luckily, such information is available, albeit with the help of some tricky software, from the NASA Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF). NAIF data files for MSL are updated roughly once a day in an unofficial directory on the NAIF website. I updated the raw image browser at to have a “map it” link next to each image that gives a side-by-side view of a given image next to a map of the camera context:



A red wedge from the camera position on the map shows the approximate field of view for the given camera. The map can be panned/zoomed. The highest resolution is 4 meters per pixel from the MRO HiRISE camera. Zooming out eventually brings in the MRO CTX camera and Google Mars imagery at lower resolutions.

For a map view of Curiosity’s track from the landing site to the current position, see this link: 

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2 Responses to Camera context for MSL images

  1. Andyj says:

    Hi Jim, I’ve been following you and your colleagues incredible work on UMSF. Your value is beyond your price. I hope you won’t be disappointed to find the drill swarf to be little better than a low quality cement infused with a bit of cleaning fluid. I’m not quite sure whether its time to sell or buy more shares in Blue Circle yet.

  2. says:

    Found your site after searching for MSL KML, looking to plot the location of the various hardware from the lander in the surrounding landscape. Love your application mapping the view in the various raw images from the lander. I wonder if you might accomplish what I was hoping to do: could you map the other hardware in the landscape so it will be obvious when these items might be possibly visible in the images?

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