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Scene of a Martian Landing


The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

This image was acquired from a special 41-degree roll of MRO, larger than the normal 30-degree limit. It rolled towards the west and towards the sun, which increases visible scattering by atmospheric dust as well as the amount of atmosphere the orbiter has to look through, thereby reducing the contrast of surface features. Future images will show the hardware in greater detail. Our view is tilted about 45 degrees from the surface (more than the 41-degree roll due to planetary curvature), like a view out of an airplane window. Tilt the images 90 degrees clockwise to see the surface better from this perspective. The views are primarily of the shadowed side of the rover and other objects.

The image scale is 39 centimeters (15.3 inches) per pixel.

Complete HiRISE image products are available at: http://uahirise.org/releases/msl-descent.php.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter's HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


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No matter how often I look at images like this, it never fails to utterly astound me that we are looking at photographs of or from the surface of another goddamned planet!

It's truly amazing to be able to be alive to witness this kind of thing. We've gone from over 100 years ago, astronomers mistakenly thinking they'd seen canals on Mars, to landing remote control cars on Mars that provide us with surface images and data and orbiters that have mapped some parts of Mars to better detail than some parts of our own planet have been mapped. Astonishing. Long may it continue and long may I live to see future missions achieving more and more and even to see rovers on Titan or elsewhere in the solar system.

Well done NASA and everyone else involved in this and other ground breaking missions to explore our universe. :nw:

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We have come a long way in the last 100 years. I hope we can go as far in the next 100 years. Go NASA Go. :clap:

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Judging by this image from orbit, about 600 meters East of Curiosity is one end of a long sinuous rill or channel. This is near the area where three different kinds of terrain, with different textures, converge at one point. This area is likely to attract interest and eventually be investigated by the rover.

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