The first image in CNN"s New images show Mars as you've never seen it before shows a partial "selfie" by the Curiosity rover which includes what looks like two images on the rover itself.

The one on the left appears to be a line drawing of itself, and the one on the right might be an abstraction of that, or a QR code, or something else. For similar looking 5x5 and 6x6 "space QR-codes" see answers to Have “QR” or other 2D barcodes been used in spaceflight?

However that image also looks to me like an abstraction of Curiosity's outline, with the bottom squares illustrating the rover's Rocker-bogie mounted wheels and the "T" on top representing the rover's MastCam.

Question: Why does Curiosity have (at least) two images of itself on itself, or is one a QR-code?

Curiosity Rover

Curiosity Rover

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    $\begingroup$ According to JPL: The "augmented reality" or AR tag seen in the foreground can be used in the future with smart phones to obtain more information about the mission. $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Sep 22, 2019 at 4:56

1 Answer 1


The right image is an augmented reality tag, according to NASA/JPL, and as commented by @aml.

Although early QR codes had fewer pixels than the ones seen nowadays, all have had black-white-black concentric "targets" at three corners. Those can't fit into a 6x6 grid, not even the one-target Micro QR variant.

AR tags and QR tags are distinct. They only overlap in their specifications and their uses: squareness and pointing cameras at them.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! A quick check of references in your first link (Wikipedia's AR Tag) shows that with all the error correction and removal of eight-fold ambiguity (rotation/mirror) those 36 bits only encode a number between 0 and 2047 if I understand correctly, but I'm not sure if reversing image value (positive/negative, light/dark) is used to get the top 1024 values or not. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 22, 2019 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh - it is definitely not a QR code $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 23, 2019 at 4:24

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