TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It's been seven years in the making.

"The Mastcam-Z cameras are really the sort of scientific eyes of the rover. There are cameras all over this rover, 23 cameras total, the most cameras ever sent to Mars," said Jim Bell, principal investigator and lead scientist for Mars Perseverance rover 2020 Mastcam-Z.

The camera sits on the mast of the Perseverance rover about six and a half feet above the ground. A pair of stereo zoom cameras can take wide-angle panoramic views and use a telephoto to get super close high-resolution pictures. They will partly be used to help with navigation, giving drivers down on earth a 3D view of their surroundings.

"That will help geologists and others understand the details of the rocks and the sand dunes and other features around us, and we have the color capability, not just red, green, and blue like we have, but we can see sort of superhuman a little bit into the ultraviolet a little bit into the infrared, and we'll get some clues about the mineral composition from those colors," said Bell.

The ASU team will create the commands for the cameras.

"We are just part of a much larger team and groups around the country, around the world who will all be feeding our pieces of the puzzle together into NASA. NASA will bundle it up and then send all those commands up to the rover and then collect all that data back down from the rover and send it back to us," said Bell.

Mastcam-Z Mars rover

They're excited about the launch, but the team is also nervous because their invention is going be sent into space on top of a rocket.

"You can't help but get butterflies in your stomach but also excitement that, you know, despite this incredibly tense and difficult time that we're all living through. We're still able to do amazing things like space exploration," said Bell.

If all goes well, the rover will land on Mars on February 18th of 2021.

"We'll be very nervous but ready to hit the ground running as soon as that master pops up, and our cameras wake up and start taking great pictures," said Bell.

 

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