Space Science Reviews

, Volume 170, Issue 1, pp 259-317

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) Investigation

  • Kenneth S. EdgettAffiliated withMalin Space Science Systems, Inc. Email author 
  • , R. Aileen YingstAffiliated withPlanetary Science Institute
  • , Michael A. RavineAffiliated withMalin Space Science Systems, Inc.
  • , Michael A. CaplingerAffiliated withMalin Space Science Systems, Inc.
  • , Justin N. MakiAffiliated withJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
  • , F. Tony GhaemiAffiliated withGhaemi Optical Engineering
  • , Jacob A. SchaffnerAffiliated withMalin Space Science Systems, Inc.
  • , James F. BellIIIAffiliated withSchool of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University
  • , Laurence J. EdwardsAffiliated withNASA Ames Research Center
    • , Kenneth E. HerkenhoffAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey
    • , Ezat HeydariAffiliated withJackson State University
    • , Linda C. KahAffiliated withUniversity of Tennessee
    • , Mark T. LemmonAffiliated withTexas A&M University
    • , Michelle E. MinittiAffiliated withApplied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University
    • , Timothy S. OlsonAffiliated withSalish Kootenai College
    • , Timothy J. ParkerAffiliated withJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    • , Scott K. RowlandAffiliated withUniversity of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
    • , Juergen SchieberAffiliated withIndiana University
    • , Robert J. SullivanAffiliated withCornell University
    • , Dawn Y. SumnerAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Peter C. ThomasAffiliated withCornell University
    • , Elsa H. JensenAffiliated withMalin Space Science Systems, Inc.
    • , John J. SimmondsAffiliated withJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    • , Aaron J. SengstackenAffiliated withJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    • , Reg G. WillsonAffiliated withJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    • , Walter GoetzAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute für Sonnensystemforschung


The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) investigation will use a 2-megapixel color camera with a focusable macro lens aboard the rover, Curiosity, to investigate the stratigraphy and grain-scale texture, structure, mineralogy, and morphology of geologic materials in northwestern Gale crater. Of particular interest is the stratigraphic record of a ∼5 km thick layered rock sequence exposed on the slopes of Aeolis Mons (also known as Mount Sharp). The instrument consists of three parts, a camera head mounted on the turret at the end of a robotic arm, an electronics and data storage assembly located inside the rover body, and a calibration target mounted on the robotic arm shoulder azimuth actuator housing. MAHLI can acquire in-focus images at working distances from ∼2.1 cm to infinity. At the minimum working distance, image pixel scale is ∼14 μm per pixel and very coarse silt grains can be resolved. At the working distance of the Mars Exploration Rover Microscopic Imager cameras aboard Spirit and Opportunity, MAHLI’s resolution is comparable at ∼30 μm per pixel. Onboard capabilities include autofocus, auto-exposure, sub-framing, video imaging, Bayer pattern color interpolation, lossy and lossless compression, focus merging of up to 8 focus stack images, white light and longwave ultraviolet (365 nm) illumination of nearby subjects, and 8 gigabytes of non-volatile memory data storage.


MAHLI Curiosity Mars Rover Camera Gale Sediment