One Moment, Two Worlds
"My immediate reaction when Emily suggested the idea was 'Cool!'" Bell told Universe Today. "My second reaction was to wonder whether we'd be able to take the photo at the right time, given the low power situation that Opportunity is in right now. Then my third through tenth reactions were 'Cool!'"
The image has now been posted on the Lens blog, with this caption:
"Two worlds, one sun: while humans' lives unfolded on Earth, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity paused in its southward trek and captured this photomosaic. Dusty, reddish-brown sand dunes stretch to the horizon in a view taken around 15:00 local Mars time on May 2."
Getting the image from Mars, though was not just as easy as pulling out a camera and taking a picture like people on Earth can do.
"The process of acquiring the image was perhaps just a bit more challenging than "normal" on the rover project," said Bell, who asked us to remember–lest we all get jaded–how incredibly complex and amazing it is *whenever* we take images with robots on another planet!), — "because we were aiming for a specific time of day, and to try to get the data downlinked on that same day, very soon after taking the data. However, the roverengineering and science teams were very excited about participating in this global photo event, and that support was critical in helping to make it happen."
Bell added that the image turned out to be a really lovely shot. The MarsDial (sundial) visible at the bottom of the image on Opportunity is engraved with the words "Two Worlds, One Sun" to mark the unity of Earth and Mars as part of the same solar system.
But the Lens blog folks thought, too, it was a really great idea and decided not to disqualify the picture.
I asked Emily if doing having this image taken at her request was even better than having a request approved for an image from HiRISE, with the "HiWISH" program (public suggestions for the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). "It was kind of a HiWish with the rovers!" she said with a smile. "Of course the rover image wouldn't have happened if the whole rover team wasn't excited about participating. But it's important to remind people that those rovers, and all the other spacecraft, and all the people who support them, are out there working hard every day to bring back the data."
Indeed – wonderful idea, Emily, and great execution on the rover team's part, making the Mars rovers even more endearing to us Martian wannabes here on Earth.