California Scientist Adds Color to Mars Curiosity Rover

The rover successfully landed on Mars this weekend

By Jacob Rascon
|  Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012  |  Updated 4:26 PM PDT
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Dr. Tyler Nordgren contributed to the Mars Rover Curiosity by designing its sundial, designed to help the rover's camera take color photos to better illustrate what Mars really looks like. Jacob Rascon reports from Redlands for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 6, 2012.

Jacob Rascon

Dr. Tyler Nordgren contributed to the Mars Rover Curiosity by designing its sundial, designed to help the rover's camera take color photos to better illustrate what Mars really looks like. Jacob Rascon reports from Redlands for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 6, 2012.

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Scientists say the Mars Rover Curiosity is doing exactly what it was designed to do and NASA engineers are ecstatic. The science laboratory is designed to pull samples from Mars' surface to determine if life may have existed on the red planet. Images have already started coming in. Conan Nolan reports from La Canada Flintridge for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on August 6, 2012.
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Any striking color images that come back from the recently-landed Mars rover Curiosity are thanks to a California scientist, whose artistic sundial will illuminate the red planet’s true colors.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to look up and say, ‘Something I helped work on is sitting on another planet,’” said Dr. Tyler Nordgren, an astronomy professor at the University of Redlands near San Bernadino.

Nordgren’s sundial, which is about the size of a human hand, helps Curiosity take color photos by acting as a color corrector. Focusing on the colorful sundial first, the camera will register the true color of Mars.

The mission of Curiosity, which landed on Mars Sunday night, is to search for signs of life on the red planet.

“Mars is the most Earth-like planet we know of, and so if there was never any life on Mars, that means life on Earth is even more precious,” he said.

The astronomy professor isn’t new to Mars missions. In 2004, he contributed a sundial to that mission. But this time is different he says. His awe at the mission can be shared worldwide thanks to Facebook.

“Around the world, we’re all chatting about it,” he said.

Nordgren says he’s dreamt of this kind of mission since he was young.

“Here I am, thirty years later,” he said. “What 10-year-old is out there right now, seeing these same images and thinking, I could do that too?”

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