Image: Mars Curiosity rover caught in the act of landing by HiRISE

Aug 06, 2012
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). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

(Phys.org) -- 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 ," said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "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."

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 .

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). Image redit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

"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, 's latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 on Aug. 6, EDT) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles in diameter.

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 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.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks' elemental composition from a distance. Later in the mission, the rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance to layers of the crater's interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

Explore further: After early troubles, all go for Milky Way telescope

More information: The image of Curiosity on its parachute can be found at: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl… media/pia15978b.html

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User comments : 16

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GSwift7
Aug 06, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Deathclock
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
So would NASA themselves consider this a "lucky shot"? It seems so difficult to predict, 72 hours prior, the exact location the craft will be at a specific time with a ~2 second window that I imagine even they were skeptical that they would capture it...
LariAnn
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2012
It would seem to me that if the rover ship was in constant communication with the MRO, they would be able to "coordinate" their action so that this shot would not be such a lucky shot as one might think. If the MRO knew 72 hours beforehand what the rover location and trajectory was, as well as what speed it was traveling, plus regular data updates, might it have been able to modify its location so as to be in more or less the right position to take the shot? Of course, that means the MRO would have to have the right software on board to make this possible.
El_Nose
not rated yet Aug 06, 2012
you are right -- this was lucky

There were no regular data updates -- think of what it takes to get any sequence to a satellite orbiting another planet that is not in a geosync orbit ---

Curiosity was built to change its speed and entry point on the fly to avoid rough weather even while committed to it's entry point.

Nasa gave up control of this over 2 days ago and the onboard systems picked when and where they entered -- within the landing zone threshold of course.
PhotonX
5 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
This is the second home run that HiRES has knocked out of the park--it snapped a descent photo of the Phoenix lander back in 2008. Lucky twice, or a damned good team?

http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2012
you are right -- this was lucky


I bet if they tried it repeatedly they would have better than 50/50 odds of success.
Jeweller
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
The Golfer Gary Player once said "The more I practise at this game, the luckier I become"
I don't think they were 'lucky' to get that shot, I think they are genius experts !
The Singularity
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2012
Impressive but far from genius. They knew the trajectories of both objects & roughly what anomolies to expect when curiosity arrived.
Raygunner
not rated yet Aug 06, 2012
I think they downplay the chances to the press and public, even though they probably know they have an 80% chance of nailing it. You always come out looking good using that approach. The 5th or 6th time they get "lucky" I would get suspicious. Not to take ANYTHING away from what they are doing. Absolutely spectacular work, especially when you consider the many many variables that had to be accounted for.
lengould100
1.5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2012
How long until the wackos start saying this was all filmed on a backlot in Hollywood?
SleepTech
not rated yet Aug 07, 2012
I think they downplay the chances to the press and public, even though they probably know they have an 80% chance of nailing it. You always come out looking good using that approach. The 5th or 6th time they get "lucky" I would get suspicious. Not to take ANYTHING away from what they are doing. Absolutely spectacular work, especially when you consider the many many variables that had to be accounted for.


Hopefully by the 5th or 6th landing, we're getting this all on video ;D
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
Fake Landing : Mars Curiosity Rover Is Really Near Area-51 In Nevada

http://www.godlik...9373/pg1

Mars Faker - Mars Landing Hoax

http://www.atlant...deo.html

Curiosity Mars "landing" BIGGEST HOAX EVER!!!

http://www.landov...?t=81016
"How long until the wackos start saying this was all filmed on a backlot in Hollywood?" - Lengould
dawkinsisgod
not rated yet Aug 07, 2012
Is there any room left in area 51 with all the fake stuff going on there?
Stupid god botherers!
roboferret
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
I'd just like to point out that Landover Baptist Church is a parody site, although its often hard to tell as the wingnuts ae often beyond parody!
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 13, 2012
So would NASA themselves consider this a "lucky shot"?

I'd say it was a 'hard work' shot on which people did work right down to the last minute (in this case 72 hours before).
yyz
1 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2012
A new, sharper HiRise image of Curiosity landing is available: http://www.univer...rachute/
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 13, 2012
Pretty cool picture. Especially when you compare it to the original you can clearly see how the sharpening filter augments detail but also augments noise.

Since the geometry/colors of the parachute and the landing capsule are known it should even be possible to apply a model based filter to this (though that would be some serious effort - and probably not worth it from a science point of view)