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Awesome Photo of the Day: Parachuting to Mars

A stunning success
Science • Views: 31,008
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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this astounding image of the Curiosity Rover descending to the surface of Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. 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. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe “Mt. Sharp.” From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA’s Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

This view is one product from an observation made by HiRISE targeted to the expected location of Curiosity about one minute prior to landing. It was captured in HiRISE CCD RED1, near the eastern edge of the swath width (there is a RED0 at the very edge). This means that the rover was a bit further east or downrange than predicted.

The image scale is 13.2 inches (33.6 centimeters) per pixel.

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 Frank says:

Throwing objects such as this are capable of damaging expensive musical equipment and musicians. Any more of this and there will be no more music. -- FZ, Autumn 1981 at Northrup auditorium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After someone threw a plunger on stage about two-thirds of the way through the show, he stopped the band with a wave of his hand speaking in the general direction that the dangerous object was thrown, while holding it in his hand. This did not prove to be an amusing act and Franks mood hardened. - It was, however, an evening of excellent, serious musicianship around the release of 'Shut up and play your guitar'