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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter captures image of Curiosity Rover’s descent onto the surface of Mars

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – An image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter captured the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide (almost 16 meter) parachute as it descended towards its landing site at Gale Crater.

“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain.”

Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The image was taken while MRO was 211 miles (340 kilometers) away from the parachuting rover. Curiosity and its rocket-propelled backpack, contained within the conical-shaped back shell, had yet to be deployed. At the time, Curiosity was about two miles (three kilometers) above the Martian surface.

“Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars,” said Milkovich. “We definitely caught NASA’s newest celebrity in the act.”

Curiosity, NASA’s latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed at 10:32pm August 5th, PDT, (1:32 on August 6th, EDT) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles in diameter.

The green diamond shows approximately where NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, a region about 2 kilometers northeast of its target in the center of the estimated landing region (blue ellipse)

The green diamond shows approximately where NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars, a region about 2 kilometers northeast of its target in the center of the estimated landing region (blue ellipse)

In other Curiosity news, one part of the rover team at the JPL continues to analyze the data from last night’s landing while another continues to prepare the one-ton mobile laboratory for its future explorations of Gale Crater. One key assignment given to Curiosity for its first full day on Mars is to raise its high-gain antenna. Using this antenna will increase the data rate at which the rover can communicate directly with Earth. The mission will use relays to orbiters as the primary method for sending data home, because that method is much more energy-efficient for the rover.

This image shows one of the first views from NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning hours Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on one of the rover's Hazard-Avoidance cameras. These engineering cameras are located at the rover's base. As planned, the early images are lower resolution. Larger color images are expected later in the week when the rover's mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image shows one of the first views from NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning hours Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a “fisheye” wide-angle lens on one of the rover’s Hazard-Avoidance cameras. These engineering cameras are located at the rover’s base. As planned, the early images are lower resolution. Larger color images are expected later in the week when the rover’s mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


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