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Setting colour standards on Mars

March 2021

Colour Standards developed by international materials technology company Lucideon are helping to ensure that the colours captured by the Perseverance mission to Mars are recorded to pinpoint accuracy.  The swatches, made in Stoke-on-Trent, have been purchased by the Niels Bohr Institute and, in their clean-rooms, placed on a set of calibration devices to support the Mastcam-Z camera system on the Perseverance rover.  The purchase and salary for an essential expert was supported by the Carlsberg Foundation in Denmark.

In addition some support was received from Arizona State University, JPL/Caltech, and NASA, through the U.S. Mars Exploration Program.  The calibration devices will be used by scientists to fine-tune the signals received from the cameras, which have been engineered to zoom in, focus and take 3D pictures and video at high speed to allow detailed examination of both close and distant objects on the planet.

Sean Hillman, Business Manager at Lucideon, said: “This is a very special project for us. We offer these products to 50 countries around the world, but it’s the first time our work has been used for another planet.  Much like weights, there needs to be a defining guide, a standard to follow, and for the Mars mission the colours have been developed to set the cameras to.  The illumination of the sun through the dusty atmosphere on Mars can affect the colours and it’s important that the equipment can be calibrated against standard swatches for absolute accuracy.”

First produced in the 1960s, Lucideon is constantly developing its Colour Standards to meet the needs of companies, such as instrument, paint and textile manufacturers worldwide.

Lucideon was approached by the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen to develop and deliver colour references to the project, for use on the Perseverance mission.  The colours were manufactured as ceramic tiles at Lucideon’s site in Penkhull, and then machined to fit in with a calibration instrument designed by researchers and technicians at the Niels Bohr Institute and the Mastcam-Z team for the Perseverance mission.

In total, 22 of the 26 colours were delivered by Lucideon, and the remaining four were purchased from Avian Technologies LLC.

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