Mars Exploration Rover Athena Panoramic Camera (Pancam) investigation

James Bell, S. W. Squyres, K. E. Herkenhoff, J. N. Maki, H. M. Arneson, D. Brown, S. A. Collins, A. Dingizian, S. T. Elliot, E. C. Hagerott, A. G. Hayes, M. J. Johnson, J. R. Johnson, J. Joseph, K. Kinch, M. T. Lemmon, R. V. Morris, L. Scherr, M. Schwochert, M. K. ShepardG. H. Smith, J. N. Sohl-Dickstein, R. J. Sullivan, W. T. Sullivan, M. Wadsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

199 Scopus citations


The Panoramic Camera (Pancam) investigation is part of the Athena science payload launched to Mars in 2003 on NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rover (MER) missions. The scientific goals of the Pancam investigation are to assess the high-resolution morphology, topography, and geologic context of each MER landing site, to obtain color images to constrain the mineralogic, photometric, and physical properties of surface materials, and to determine dust and aerosol opacity and physical properties from direct imaging of the Sun and sky. Pancam also provides mission support measurements for the rovers, including Sun-finding for rover navigation, hazard identification and digital terrain modeling to help guide long-term rover traverse decisions, high-resolution imaging to help guide the selection of in situ sampling targets, and acquisition of education and public outreach products. The Pancam optical, mechanical, and electronics design were optimized to achieve these science and mission support goals. Pancam is a multispectral, stereoscopic, panoramic imaging system consisting of two digital cameras mounted on a mast 1.5 m above the Martian surface. The mast allows Pancam to image the full 360° in azimuth and ±90° in elevation. Each Pancam camera utilizes a 1024 × 1024 active imaging area frame transfer CCD detector array. The Pancam optics have an effective focal length of 43 mm and a focal ratio f/20, yielding an instantaneous field of view of 0.27 mrad/pixel and a field of view of 16° × 16°. Each rover's two Pancam "eyes" are separated by 30 cm and have a 1° toe-in to provide adequate stereo parallax. Each eye also includes a small eight position filter wheel to allow surface mineralogic studies, multispectral sky imaging, and direct Sun imaging in the 400-1100 nm wavelength region. Pancam was designed and calibrated to operate within specifications on Mars at temperatures from -55° to +5°C. An onboard calibration target and fiducial marks provide the capability to validate the radiometric and geometric calibration on Mars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 25 2003
Externally publishedYes



  • Mars
  • Mars Exploration Rover
  • Multispectral imaging
  • Space missions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Bell, J., Squyres, S. W., Herkenhoff, K. E., Maki, J. N., Arneson, H. M., Brown, D., ... Wadsworth, M. (2003). Mars Exploration Rover Athena Panoramic Camera (Pancam) investigation. Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets, 108(12).