content long 25-March-2019 20:56:01

The ExoMars Rover Instrument Suite

PanCam - the Panoramic Camera

The PanCam prototype during tests in Mars-like conditions. Credit: AMASE

The PanCam - panoramic camera - has been designed to search for textural information on rocks (for example, laminations or pitting) that can be related to the presence of organisms on Mars. PanCam will also capture other information that will help in revealing the geological characteristics of the Martian environment.

This instrument will provide stereo and 3D imagery of the terrain around the Rover, for the benefit of the mission as a whole. In particular, the Panoramic Camera will be used:

  • To help locate the landing site and Rover position with respect to local geographical references;
  • To provide the geological context of the sites explored by the Rover;
  • To support the selection of the best sites to carry out exobiology studies;
  • To study properties of the atmosphere and of other variable phenomena.


PanCam will also support the scientific measurements of other Rover instruments. It will capture high-resolution images of locations that are difficult to access, such as craters or rock walls. Then, it will monitor the sample from the drill before it is ingested and crushed inside the Rover, where the Analytical Laboratory instruments will perform a detailed chemical, physical, and spectral analysis.

The PanCam mounted on the Rover mast. Credit: ESA

PanCam is composed of:

  • Two Wide Angle Cameras (WACs), for panoramic imaging (37° field of view, fixed focus); both "eyes" are equipped with a 12-position filter wheel each covering a different wavelength, thus enabling multispectral observations;
  • One High Resolution Camera (HRC), for high-resolution colour imaging (5° field of view, with an autofocus mechanism);
  • The PanCam Interface Unit (PIU), the "brain" of the instrument communicating with the Rover.
    These three elements are grouped on an optical bench arranged on the Pan-Tilt Unit on top of the ExoMars rover mast assembly.


The ExoMars PanCam optical bench.
Credit: University College London - Mullard Space Science Laboratory

PanCam is supplemented by a 5-cm diameter calibration target and by a small spherical mirror, the Rover Inspection Mirror (RIM), which enable the camera to capture images of items that are not directly in the field of view. The images taken are then processed and can be used to check the status of the Rover.

Image as seen in the Rover Inspection Mirror of PanCam.
Credit: Aberystwyth University
The flattened image of the Rover Inspection Mirror of PanCam after the processing.
Credit: Aberystwyth University

Instrument update

An image taken by the PanCam prototype (top) used as input to create a realistic model of the terrain (bottom). Credit: AMASE, C.Cousins, Joanneum Research

A number of tests for PanCam have been carried out, including a series of tests in simulated Martian conditions (AMASE expeditions) using a prototype of the instrument. The images taken in the field in August 2009 were used as inputs to create realistic 3D models of the terrain.
Moreover, a 'blind test' was carried out in May 2009 to assess the contribution of the wide-angle analogue cameras (WAC), the high resolution camera breadboard (HRC) and a simulated close-up imager in identifying the nature of sample rocks. The combination of WAC and HRC images were in most cases sufficient to enable the nature of the rock to be identified, while some minerals could only be classified with certainty with the close-up imager.


PanCam participants
Principal Investigator
Andrew Coates, MSSL/University College London, London, United Kingdom

Co-Principal Investigators
High Resolution Camera: Ralf Jaumann, DLR/IPF, Berlin, Germany
Wide Angle Cameras: Jean-Luc Josset, Space Exploration Institute, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
ESA contact
ExoMars instrument system engineer
Andrew Ball, Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration, European Space Agency
More instrument details
The PanCam Instrument for the ExoMars Rover
Coates, A.J., et al., Astrobiology, July 2017, 17(6-7), 511-541


Last Update: 25 August 2017

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