Don't get me wrong... I think that the L2 lens is highly useful in the data-gathering aspects of the Rovers, particularly when used in conjuction
with R2 for binocular pictures (3-d perspective). I'm sure that the L2 lens also provides plenty of useful information to the geologists when trying
to find interesting rocks.
The real issue that I have is when they try to move from target selection to presenting "color mosaics". As near as I can tell, no significant
additional SCIENTIFIC or navigational information comes from mixing L2 with L5 and L6, above and beyond what any one of those single-filter pictures
would have given the mission team.
The primary function of a "color" mosaic (as far as I can tell) is public relations. It makes prettier pictures than the black-and-white of a
And make no mistake, the primary interest level of the MASSIVE downloading being done (of the data being made available) is for color pictures
destined for "human consumption"... desktop wallpaper, flights of fantasy, and generally making folks feel good about their investment. It makes
the public interested and enthusiastic, which is good for an agency that is funded with tax dollars.
It's fine to take L2 frames, and I'm happy that NASA is doing so. Where I'm bothered is with the logical leap that, since they have the L2 frame,
they can just substitute that along with L5 and L6 to create a "color" picture which does NOT represent something close to the human / computer
The January 19th pictures of Sushi and Sashimi show just how well the pictures come out when they use the far more appropriate L4 lens to make
"approximate true color" images.
That means that NASA has a chance to show people something extremely close to "the truth" when composing color pictures to show people "what it
looks like on Mars". All they need to do is take the L4 frames IN ADDITION to the L2 frames.
Doing so lets geologists see the data in an L2-L5-L6 format if they prefer that for some reason (they don't need the NASA website or press releases
for that... they can produce those easily in-house I'm sure), and the rest of the public can get L4-L5-L6 images which come really close to "true
color"... and there are no more ongoing and compounding problems with credibility.
I understand the argument for wanting to put something out on the web "as quickly as possible", but please keep in mind that these web shots are NOT
the primary mechanism for target selection in the future (as far as I know). I'm sure that the principal investigators and their teams are looking
at the raw data, not surfing the website and press releases.
Press releases are for PUBLIC RELATIONS, pure and simply. That means that the color results should be based on data that is compatible with web
surfers... miscellaneous human beings viewing the pretty color pictures on their computers using the Internet.
Parties interested in doing their own ad-hoc analysis can still download all of the raw data and perform their own analysis (subject to the minor
errors introduced by reformatting the data as JPG files instead of releasing the lossless images, of course).
I just think that it is woefully short-sighted of NASA to neglect to take an extra shot at each landscape position using the L4 filter... they are
constructing the pretty color pictures for PR purposes anyway.
So why do they sabotage their own PR efforts by putting out inaccurate (for humans) color pictures and then have to explain later why the real (human)
colors are so different? Why not just do it right to begin with?
Their existing strategy is fueling conspiracy speculation FAR more (IMO) than if they would just "do it right" from the beginning. Spend a few
extra minutes, and get it right the first time.
Take the L4 shots along with the L2, L5 and L6.
Putting out the L4-L5-L6 shots first
puts a damper on the conspiratorial whisperings, because you don't have to deal with the accusations of a
"changing story", which gets otherwise-accepting people scratching their heads and questioning (in many cases, for the first time) if there is a
I know that I, for one, wouldn't have batted an eye about the pictures if the color panoramas had been done in L4-L5-L6 initially, including the
calibration tool. The presence of that tool would have allowed any reasonable person to verify for themselves that the L4-L5-L6 mix was pretty close
to "right on", and I'm sure the vast majority of them would have dismissed outright any of the more loony conspiratorial excursions.
Instead, we're left with a situation where I see that calibration tool, I get (along with almost everyone else that I've pointed it out to) a
visceral reaction that I'm being deceived.
That's horrifically bad PR. Instead of the relatively small "usual suspects" list of conspiracy fanatics raising the typical fuss that can ALWAYS
be expected, we are left with mainstream news sources like the BBC
pointing out the
People pay a LOT
more attention to something like the BBC news than they do to the typical conspiracist.
Even with the relatively prosaic explanation that Kano has uncovered for the MECHANICS of why it looks that way... we're still left with the
contentions made all along by team representatives that we would see Mars "in its true colors", and then procedures that more-or-less guarantee that
we can't see the truth because of the flawed methodology in data gathering.
The red channel on L2 is contaminated when trying to make human-friendly pictures. We are then left with reassurances that it "probably" looks very
close to that... only to find other pictures taken and balanced with the human-friendly L4-L5-L6 combo that show that the terrain clearly
look like that.
That's not a recipe for recovering lost confidence, IMO. That's a recipe for continuing to fuel speculation about why they won't show the rest of
the landscape as a human would see it.