NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has captured an impressive picture of the Curiosity rover’s nail-biting and extremely successful descent.
MRO is a satellite flying high above the Martian surface and beaming back amazing data about the planet. Before the descent, engineers were hoping to line up the orbiter in the right spot to capture a few quick shots of Curiosity’s landing sequence and it appears they were able to. The image shows Curiosity’s supersonic parachute — the largest ever used on an interplanetary mission — with the rover tucked beneath it.
NASA’s most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.
“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030′s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”
Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.
This is the first image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a “fisheye” wide-angle lens on one of the rover’s front left Hazard-Avoidance cameras at one-quarter of full resolution. The clear dust cover on the camera is still on in this view, and dust can be seen around its edge, along with three cover fasteners. The rover’s shadow is visible in the foreground.