Digital Imaging in Space


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How and why digital imaging rose in outer space.

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Digital Imaging in Space

  1. 1. Digital Imaging in Space
  2. 2. Christian Sandström holds a PhD from ChalmersUniversity of Technology, Sweden. He writes and speaks about disruptive innovation and technological change.
  3. 3. This is the first image ever transmitted from Mars and back home to earth.
  4. 4. Some of the first applications of digital imaging back in the1970s were used in outer space.
  5. 5. The Viking Lander 1 took thefirst picture from the surface of Mars on July 20 1976.
  6. 6. After an 11 month journey, it couldfinally land in the region called Chryse Planitia.
  7. 7. The Viking Lander 1 took the first picture from the surface of Mars on July 20 1976.
  8. 8. About 4500 images were taken and many of them are so good they’re still used today.
  9. 9. Well, it couldn’t be aHasselblad this time. (Photo taken at theNasa space center inHuntsville, Alabama)
  10. 10. But what cameras were used?A film camera required people and besides, the film needed to be brought back.
  11. 11. As the Viking Lander was not going to return to earth, a different technology was needed.
  12. 12. In order to send the images back toearth, the photos needed to be digital.
  13. 13. Back in those days, the image sensor(CCD) had just been invented and the quality was still poor.
  14. 14. Therefore, a kind of scanning technique was used.
  15. 15. A photodiode was used. It is a kind of photodetector that can convert light into current or voltage.
  16. 16. The ’camera’ had a rotating tube with a mirror going up and down, sending a continuous stream of light down to an array of 12 pixels.
  17. 17. So each picture was built up continuously, row by row and eventually, a pretty good image had been constructed.
  18. 18. That’s how the first iconic photos of Mars were taken using digital imaging.
  19. 19. Interestingly, some of the early drawbacks of digital imaging have created an incorrect idea about the colours of Mars.
  20. 20. When light goes through various colourfilters, an inaccurate image may be created.
  21. 21. Therefore, many of those images had an excessive orange nuance.
  22. 22. And when the images came back to earth, there was simply no time to correct this.
  23. 23. Needless to say, the images were quickly distributed all over the world.
  24. 24. Terry Pratchett once said something like ‘the lie has come halfway around the planet before the truth has puts on its shoes’.
  25. 25. So the myth survives, and lives on.
  26. 26. The photos of Mars can serve as anillustration of the early drawbacks of digital imaging and the shortcomings of society.
  27. 27. Apart from the minor shortcomings of digital imaging, the Viking Lander was very successful.
  28. 28. The Lander exceeded its lifetimewith some 90 days and worked for about six years.
  29. 29. It’s interesting to see how the first applications of digital imaging were in fact very advanced.
  30. 30. This seems to be the case with most digital technologies.
  31. 31. The first electronic calculators were called scientific calculators,and were only used in very extremesettings, suchas NASA and different military applications.
  32. 32. The first transistor radio technology back in the early 1950swas primarily used in the US Military.
  33. 33. Given that digital technology is initially very expensive it has often been nurtured in these kind of segmentswhich are not senstitive to the price tag.
  34. 34. In addition to this, it has often brought in new performance attributes that were crucial in this particular application (like the cameras used on Mars).
  35. 35. As the price went down over time and the performanceincreased, these products reached the mass markets later on.
  36. 36. Today, we have much morepixels in a simple point and shoot camera thanNASA had when exploring space in the 1970s.
  37. 37. Sources Larry PerkinsDiscovery Blog Wikipedia
  38. 38. Image attributions
  39. 39. Find out