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Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z

The Eyes of NASA's Next Mars Rover "Perseverance"

Mastcam-Z is a mast-mounted camera system with two cameras (Left/Right) and an electronics box. The cameras can zoom in, focus, take monoscopic (one camera) and stereoscopic (both cameras) images with various filters, and acquire video. The cameras will help other Mars 2020 experiments on the Perseverance rover by looking at the landscape and identifying rocks and soil that deserve a closer look by other instruments. The ASU-led team will use these special designed-for-space cameras to figure out the geology, to help pick out the best rocks for coring, and to look for signs of past life on Mars. The principal investigator for the instrument is professor and planetary scientist Jim Bell  of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

The camera is located near the top of rover's mast,

it's a camera system,

and it has zoom capability;

hence the name Mastcam-Z

NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Mission

The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars and to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.

Optical groups for the Engineering Qualification Model, photographed just prior to assembly. G1 = Group 1 optical section; FG = Focus Group; G3 = Group 3; ZG1, ZG2 = Zoom Group 1, 2; G6 = Group 6, FW = Filter Wheel.

About the Camera

The cameras weigh about 8.8 pounds and will produce images of color quality similar to that of a consumer digital camera (2 megapixels). The cameras will help other Mars 2020 experiments on the rover by looking at the whole landscape and identifying rocks and soil (regolith) that deserve a closer look by other instruments. They will also spot important rocks for the rover to sample and store on the surface of Mars. Mastcam-Z's purpose is to take high definition video, panoramic color and 3D images of the Martian surface and features in the atmosphere with a zoom lens to magnify distant targets. It will be mounted on the Perseverance rover mast at the eye level of a 6 1/2 foot tall person.  The cameras (there will be two) are separated by 9.5 inches to provide stereo vision.

These cameras, with their all-seeing sharp vision, will pick out the best rocks, hunt for places for life, and look for signs of water on Mars.

Mars 2020 Mission and Instrument Timeline

Fall 2018

An "engineering qualification model” (EQM) of Mastcam-Z arrived at ASU and was tested in the ASU thermal vacuum chamber on the Tempe campus. 

Winter/Spring 2019

Mastcam-Z flight instrument arrives on the ASU Tempe Campus

Spring 2019

Mastcam-Z flight instrument is delivered to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

March 5, 2020

NASA reveals the name of Mars rover "Perseverance" 

July 20, 2020

Mars 2020 spacecraft launch from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

February 2021

Mars 2020 spacecraft lands and the mission lasts at least one Mars year (687 Earth days)

Mastcam-Z Team 

On February 6, 2018, the Mastcam-Z team captured their traditional team photo in an unusual way: with the stereo testbed model of the camera. Just as the real camera will do on Mars, the testbed rotated to multiple positions to gather in the full scene. To produce this panoramic view, the team corrected the images for geometric distortion and assembled them into a mosaic.

Mastcam-Z Team

From left to right, the pictured team members are: Jim Bell, Justin Maki, Jeffrey Johnson, Mark Lemmon, Ken Edgett, Mike Wolff, Ken Herkenhoff, Samantha Jacob, Ed Cloutis, Andy Winhold, Zach Bailey, Danika Wellington, Nicole Schmitz, Rob Sullivan, Peter Martin, Paul Corlies, Jim Bell, Sarah Fagents, Kristen Paris, Stephanie Holaday, Elsa Jensen, Piluca Caballo Perucha, Ernest Cisneros, Jake Adler, Melissa Rice, Christian Tate, Kjartan Kinch, Darian Dixon, Gerhard Paar, Kathleen Hoza, Jon Proton, Jim Bell, and Mat Kaplan.

Principal Investigator: Jim Bell, Arizona State University

Deputy Principal Investigator: Justin Maki, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Education and Public Outreach Partner: The Planetary Society

Instrument Development: Malin Space Science Systems

Team Blogs

What's the latest on the Mastcam-Z team? Check out the Planetary Society Mastcam-Z team blogs.  


Watch Mastcam-Z Principal Investigator Jim Bell on #NASAatHome: Spaceport Series Episode 4 (air date April 2020) on the NASA Kenney Space Center’s YouTube Channel

Planetary Society Mastcam-Z Press Room

NASA Mars 2020 Mission Newsroom

ASU's Mars 2020 'Mastcam-Z' cameras tested at Jet Propulsion Laboratory

ASU's 'Mastcam-Z' cameras installed on the NASA Mars 2020 rover

Mars 2020 rover mission camera system 'Mastcam-Z' testing begins at ASU

NASA chooses ASU to design, operate camera system for Mars 2020 mission

Additional Resources

NASA Mastcam-Z webpage

Planetary Society Mastcam-Z webpage