Mars in Crayon

data_firstmars_01.jpg

Jesus Diaz:

The people at the JPL were so excited to receive the images that they couldn’t wait for them to be processed by the lab’s imager. As the first picture was beamed down as a stream of 8-bit numbers–each point indicating a brightness point–they thought of a quick way to get an image straight away: Print the numbers indicating brightness in paper strips, put them together, and color them with pastel crayons.

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20 Responses to Mars in Crayon

  1. Anonymous says:

    Paint by numbers

  2. I blogged about this a couple of years ago after seing this picture of a engineer coloring a map:

    http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/spotlight/spirit/images/Marinermural_eng_040115174733.jpg

  3. Big Herm says:

    I’m not buying it. There are any number of software packages (some of them free) that will convert a string of values in a matter of seconds. Besides, if they were filling in cells with brightness values, don’t you think the image would look a little more pixelated (or at least less crooked) as they would be following rows and columns to complete the image?

  4. Tom says:

    Wow, they must have some really inept computer scientists at JPL. It is really easy to write a program that displays an 8-bit raster image. This is what our tax money gets wasted on?

  5. Anonymous says:

    This was from one of the Mariner probes in the ’70s.

    Joel, cite your source at least. I’m guessing you lifted it from Gizmodo (posted last Friday).

    http://gizmodo.com/5266151/first-tv-image-of-mars-ever-was-made-with-crayons

  6. daleyt says:

    Wow. I’m glad Big Herm and Tom actually read the article.

    This was from the Mariner 4 mission in 1965. RTFM next time, guys.

  7. Ethan says:

    Sure, easy to write that program in 2009… but quite a bit more difficult in 1965.

  8. ahstevens says:

    I would buy that. With money. And put it on my wall.

  9. Dan Goods says:

    ok, i’ve posted a bunch of new pictures related to the “first tv iage of mars” as well as a more complete story here:

    http://directedplay.com/first_tv_image_of_mars.html

    we had the original pastels in the exhibition! they had been sitting in the guy’s closet since ’65. his wife was upset that now she can’t throw things of his away “because they might be in a museum someday” :)

    a pic of them is on the site.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @3 “There are any number of software packages (some of them free) that will convert a string of values in a matter of seconds” Not in 1965 there wasn’t! RTFA

  11. Chris Tucker says:

    Tom @#4:

    Now, don’t you feel silly?

  12. adwkiwi says:

    @Dan #10:
    Thanks for that, totally brilliant. I love stories of engineers coming up with things like this, especially in the context of space travel. The idea that crayons helped us explore space makes me happy :)

  13. Dan Goods says:

    Howdy… I co-curated the “Data + Art” show that this was in and interviewed Richard Grumm who is the one who made the image (his initials “RLG” can be seen in the lower right hand corner). The original JPL description is a little outdated…

    The story is that mangers for the mission were unsure if the tape recorder on Mariner 4 was working correctly. It turns out that the one used was a spare not originally intended for use, but because of previous failures it was used. After the flyby of the planet it would take several hours for the computers to process a real image. There had been some anomalous errors pointing towards the tape recorder so everyone was a little freaked out that they were not going to get any images. So Mr. Grumm, who oversaw the tape recorder, and his crew decided to prove one way or the other.

    The engineers thought of different ways of taking the 1’s and 0’s from the actual data to create an image and decided that printing out the digits and coloring over them was the most efficient. So Mr. Grumm went to a local art store and was looking for a set of chalk in different grays. The art store replied that they “did not sell chalk” (as that was too low for them, only convenience stores sold “chalk”), but they did have colored pastels. Richard did not want to spend a lot of time arguing with them, so he just picked them up, printed out the 1’s and 0’s and his team colored them by their brightness level. Though he used a brown/red color scheme the thought that mars was red did not enter his mind. He really was looking for the colors that best represented a grey scale, since that was what they were going to get anway. It is uncanny how close to the actual colors of mars he was as they look like they came right out of current images of the planet. I’ve seen some of the other color schemes he tried and it could have been green or purple!

    While he and his team were coloring the image, the JPL PR folks were getting nervous that the news media would see this thing and not the “actual” pretty image. They told them to quit, but Grumm argued that this was to confirm whether their instrument was working or not. So they allowed him to continue if he did it behind a movable partition wall with armed guards around them! Eventually the media found out about it and got so excited the PR people couldn’t keep them out, so it became the first close-up image of mars to be seen on tv.

    The image is actually of the limb of the planet. The dark brown at the bottom is space, the light area is the planet, and the orange in between are clouds above the surface. And even though it seems that it is in HD, its because each time they laid down a strip of paper, it got a little longer. When they finally finished the piece they literally took a saw to the movable wall and cut it out, framed it, and gave it to the William Pickering, the JPL director at the time.

    I will post more about this with images on my website tonight:
    http://directedplay.com/dataandart.html

    Hope this adds interest to the image :)

  14. dculberson says:

    Herm, Tom, Anon, et al., I would have hoped that a pretty huge clue was the fact that it was talking about the first image of Mars. Jeez.

  15. Nelson.C says:

    Silly people in history! Why didn’t they do things like we do?

  16. Scott says:

    Anyone have a link to the processed image?

  17. dbrown says:

    See also the first MRI, plotted out by hand in ballpoint from individual MR readings. In “Document 9″, I think, on this poorly laid out timeline. http://www.fonar.com/fonar_timeline.htm

  18. mevric says:

    Herm, Tom, Anon, et al., I would have hoped that a pretty huge clue was the fact that it was talking about the first image of Mars. Jeez.honorary degree

  19. kaka says:

    Thanks for that, totally brilliant. I love stories of engineers coming up with things like this, especially in the context of space travel. The idea that crayons helped us explore space makes me happy :) honorary degree

  20. Big Herm says:

    My bad- Didn’t realize that the name of the submitter (?) was a link to the original article. Originally, wasn’t buying the story, thinking it was a relatively recent image. Now I’m with AHSTEVENS, I would most certainly buy it.

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