Mars rover Curiosity beams back images showing its descent

Aug 07, 2012
This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three seconds after heat shield separation. It is among the first color images Curiosity sent back from Mars. The resolution of all of the MARDI frames is reduced by a factor of eight in order for them to be promptly received on Earth during this early phase of the mission. Full resolution (1,600 by 1,200 pixel) images will be returned to Earth over the next several months as Curiosity begins its scientific exploration of Mars. The original image from MARDI has been geometrically corrected to look flat. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org) -- Earlier today, just hours after NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, a select group of images taken by the onboard Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, were beamed back to Earth. The 297 color, low-resolution images, provide a glimpse of the rover's descent into Gale Crater. They are a preview of the approximately 1,504 images of descent currently held in the rover's onboard memory. When put together in highest resolution, the resulting video is expected to depict the rover's descent from the moment the entry system's heat shield is released through touchdown.

"The image sequence received so far indicates Curiosity had, as expected, a very exciting ride to the surface," said Mike Malin, imaging for the Mars mission from Malin Space Systems in San Diego. "But as dramatic as they are, there is real other-world importance to obtaining them. These images will help the mission scientists interpret the rover's surroundings, the rover drivers in planning for future drives across the surface, as well as assist engineers in their design of forthcoming landing systems for Mars or other worlds."

Video: This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard 's Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. These thumbnail images were received on Earth on Aug. 6, 2012, and cover the last two and a half minutes of descent. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The MARDI camera is located on the chassis of the . Just before the heat shield fell away, MARDI began its imaging task. The images selected for early downlink to Earth were taken at different points in Curiosity's final descent toward the surface. One of the earliest images shows the entry vehicle's 50 feet (15 meters) and falling away after separating from the vehicle three seconds before. A set of images demonstrates some of the gyrations Curiosity went through while on the parachute. Another remarkable set of images depicts the final moments leading up to landing, where the exhaust from four of the descent stage's 742 pounds of thrust rockets billow up dust from the Martian surface.

"A good comparison is to that grainy onboard film from Apollo 11 when they were about to land on the moon," said Malin.

Those MARDI images downlinked so far are low-resolution thumbnails, 192 by 144 pixels. In the months ahead, as communications between rover and Earth become more robust, full-frame 1,600 by 1,200 pixels in size, are expected to provide the most complete and dramatic imagery of a planetary landing in the history of exploration.

The mission also released a higher-resolution Hazcam image of their target, the mountain in the middle of informally titled Mount Sharp.

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

Curiosity, NASA's latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (05:32 on Aug. 6, EDT) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles in diameter.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, provided MARDI, as well as three other cameras on .

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SleepTech
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Is that some type of lens refraction or are those stars or something? In that black & white picture, far left side, above the crater rim. There are two glowing orb things.. are those stars?
Birger
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
The dark patch up, to the right, is a portion of the rover. The two bright patches inside it is where the background sky can be seen through gaps in the wiring/plumbing of the craft.
Mayday
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
I wish the first rock they zoom in on turned out to be a sea shell. You go, Curiosity!
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
probably not stars as it landed during the martian day
Thex1138
Aug 07, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
GSwift7
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Is that some type of lens refraction or are those stars or something? In that black & white picture, far left side, above the crater rim. There are two glowing orb things.. are those stars?


The black at the top corners is the rover, not the sky.

Could be a trick of the fisheye lense, but that three mile high mountain looks awefully far away in that picture. It's gonna be quite a drive getting there.

Look at the different colored patches on the ground a little bit farther out from the rover. See the lighter colored strip out there? Then there are two or three noticably different color bands between the rover and the base of the mountain. Looks like a much more interesting area than where the other rovers have landed.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (21) Aug 07, 2012
I wonder what Kevin and fellow creationists will say when Curiosity finds fossils. This is what they say now:

"Every few years evolutionists prop up and advertise a few new fossils and fool many into thinking that their theory finally has scientific substance. They neglect or purposefully hide their frauds and wishful finds of the past, which used to be the new fossils of past times. There are no transitional fossils that have withstood the test of time and true (non-media-hyped) scientific scrutiny. Their track record is to stand *against* what we see in the fossil record ... and that is the mass burial of the former world in the Great Flood of 4,400 years ago."

-As we know, god sent the flood here on earth to wipe out wicked humanity. So why would have flooded mars as well? Sure, plenty of evidence for a Martian flood they'll say, so there must have been wicked glass-headed Martians there at one time. But who's image were THEY created in I wonder? Etc.

Should be interesting.
Maat
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
Is that some type of lens refraction or are those stars or something? In that black & white picture, far left side, above the crater rim. There are two glowing orb things.. are those stars?


The dark spots in the upper left and right corner are the vehicle itself. The two "orbs" that you're talking about are simply the sky showing through the vehicles body (where the vehicle is not obscuring it, not that it's transparent or anything like that!)

Please also note that this is a fish eye lens, it's distorted like that intentionally to capture a wide field of view.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (15) Aug 07, 2012
Is that some type of lens refraction or are those stars or something? In that black & white picture, far left side, above the crater rim. There are two glowing orb things.. are those stars?


The dark spots in the upper left and right corner are the vehicle itself. The two "orbs" that you're talking about are simply the sky showing through the vehicles body (where the vehicle is not obscuring it, not that it's transparent or anything like that!)

Please also note that this is a fish eye lens, it's distorted like that intentionally to capture a wide field of view.
I wonder why some people will post without first at least skimming the other comments? It just makes them look a little clueless.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (22) Aug 07, 2012
Re my excellent Martian fossils post

'Once upon a time there was a race of glass-headed Martians. But they were so wicked, and so wierd-looking, that not even one of them was deemed worthy enough to build an ark and save himself and his family, and so they all died. The end.'

No wait-

'Humanity actually BEGAN on mars. God saw how wicked they all were, except for Noah and his brood of course, so god instructed him on how to build a SPACESHIP ark and fly to earth. The bible ark is only a metaphor (what else?) because the people who wrote it could not understand what god was talking about when he tried to dictate an explicit description. Re Von daniken.''

Anyways, this makes much more sense because it explains why there is absolutely no evidence for a biblical flood here on earth, and also since we can now build spaceships, we know it is possible.

How about it kev? Think I'm jumping the gun a little bit?
Tektrix
5 / 5 (9) Aug 07, 2012
@ GOO192- Ya know, while a lot of us don't agree with Kevin, this isn't an article about faith vs science. And frankly, you are jumping out of the realm of science when you assert so strongly that Curiosity will find fossils. That requires a cognitive leap that's not much different than believing that a magic sky-god waved his arms around and made everything in the blink of an eye. And, when you invent imaginary posts from others, it makes you look like an opportunist who has to invent controversy just so you can pontificate your own brand of fervor.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (10) Aug 07, 2012
I gave him a 5 for that, because I found it humorous, but I agree with you, it gets old.

If a creationist starts mouthing off in a discussion I condone letting loose to counter everything they say, but don't start it yourself before one even enters the discussion, it's annoying.
SleepTech
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
Is that some type of lens refraction or are those stars or something? In that black & white picture, far left side, above the crater rim. There are two glowing orb things.. are those stars?


The dark spots in the upper left and right corner are the vehicle itself. The two "orbs" that you're talking about are simply the sky showing through the vehicles body (where the vehicle is not obscuring it, not that it's transparent or anything like that!)

Please also note that this is a fish eye lens, it's distorted like that intentionally to capture a wide field of view.


I don't think you're looking at what I'm talking about. Here, I put an arrow pointing at them.
http://www.images.../2508103
They look like stars, but I'm hoping they're the orbiters.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (14) Aug 07, 2012
@ GOO192- Ya know, while a lot of us don't agree with Kevin, this isn't an article about faith vs science. And frankly, you are jumping out of the realm of science when you assert so strongly that Curiosity will find fossils. That requires a cognitive leap that's not much different than believing that a magic sky-god waved his arms around and made everything in the blink of an eye.
You heard of the martian meteorite they found here on earth with the disputed fossils? If there was life at any time in the past, and water, there WILL be fossils. Obviously.
And, when you invent imaginary posts from others
Anticipatory posts. This will come up. Doubt me?
it makes you look like an opportunist who has to invent controversy just so you can pontificate your own brand of fervor.
What can I say? I'm very passionate. So may I invite you to kiss my hairy butt?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (14) Aug 07, 2012
Here you go - I did a little research for you;
http://news.disco...726.html
http://news.natio...-oceans/
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (12) Aug 07, 2012
"This presents a dilemma for fossil hunters, since digging deep to find potential traces of Martian life would involve time and equipment not available to the robotic rovers sent to explore the planet's surface."

-The reason they picked this particular location is because of the exposed layers which offer opportunities to examine a range of past environments. One feature they are eager to see is an exposed clay layer which must have been formed by subsurface water. Perhaps they will find fossils there.
Claudius
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
While watching the live NASA coverage, I kept expecting that they would need to wait about 14 minutes for signals from Curiosity to reach them. Everything seemed to occur in real time with no delay. Just wondering how they did it.
jamesbuddy
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
I see what he is talking about. They are very small and on the far left just under the left arm.
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
I saw what you meant, SleepTech. I agree that they look like stars or planets, shining bright in an evening sky, but I'm having a hell of a time finding information on what Martian time (we need time zones for Mars now, that's just shiny) that picture was taken, or what the time was where it landed. There's some conjecture that they will be offering more information when the full resolution images come out, though it may be so obvious what they are it won't be necessary.
A martian day is ~24hours 39 1/2minutes. In the past, each rover has set its own time zone. The prime meridian goes north/sout through the Airy-0 crater, which the Opportunity rover is closest to, and would likely be in the same time zone as. Curiosity looks to be on almost exactly the opposite side of Mars from Opportunity, both in the southern hemisphere.
That's everything I could find.
Anybody have friends with JPL? We want answers and Curiosity is killing us, heh.
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
Claudius, according to the most current solay system map I could find, http://szyzyg.arm...orm.png, and the signal delay ranging from 3 to 30 minutes depending on the proximity of Mars and Earth it looks like the delay is 10-13 minutes. I didn't see the coverage so I can't say exactly why it might have looked instant, but I suspect it was being aired pretty quickly after it was received, and there is some level of automation or pre-issued commands for when it landed.
Claudius
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
Claudius, according to the most current solay system map I could find, http://szyzyg.arm...orm.png, and the signal delay ranging from 3 to 30 minutes depending on the proximity of Mars and Earth it looks like the delay is 10-13 minutes. I didn't see the coverage so I can't say exactly why it might have looked instant, but I suspect it was being aired pretty quickly after it was received, and there is some level of automation or pre-issued commands for when it landed.


Thanks for weighing in. My own theory is that the landing was actually about 14 minutes earlier than announced. Then they could show Mission Control receiving the signals as if in real time, thus creating more drama. They kept talking about Mars being about 250 million miles away, and that it was taking about 14 minutes for signals to arrive. But they knew within seconds that Curiosity was on the ground and sending images, which also seemed to arrive just about instantly.
hillbillyvoodoo
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
@sleeptech I would bet the glowing orbs are Venus and Mercury.
@claudius Nasa was receiving the data 14 minutes after the fact. by the time we saw the beginning of edl, the rover had been sitting on mars for over 7 minutes.
GSwift7
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
While watching the live NASA coverage, I kept expecting that they would need to wait about 14 minutes for signals from Curiosity to reach them. Everything seemed to occur in real time with no delay. Just wondering how they did it.


The stream from the control room was live. What they were seeing on thier screens was current data as it streamed in from Mars, which is currently delayed about 14 minutes by distance. So, technically, the lander was already on the ground before NASA got confirmation that it had started the landing sequence. On the live feed from the control room, you were seeing the information as soon as NASA was seeing it. All of the landing sequence commands are pre-programmed. There's no direct contact with the spacecraft from NASA until after the landing, and that is delayed 14 minutes each way right now. By Sring time next year the delay will be almost 30 minutes each way.
Claudius
3 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012


The stream from the control room was live. What they were seeing on thier screens was current data as it streamed in from Mars, which is currently delayed about 14 minutes by distance. So, technically, the lander was already on the ground before NASA got confirmation that it had started the landing sequence. On the live feed from the control room, you were seeing the information as soon as NASA was seeing it. All of the landing sequence commands are pre-programmed. There's no direct contact with the spacecraft from NASA until after the landing, and that is delayed 14 minutes each way right now. By Sring time next year the delay will be almost 30 minutes each way.


The problem for me is that the landing as witnessed by Mission Control was about 12:32 (my time) as it was announced it would be. Which means that the actual landing was about 12:17, if there was a 14 minute delay. This is OK by me, but I have been scratching my head about it ever since.
GSwift7
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
The problem for me is that the landing as witnessed by Mission Control was about 12:32 (my time) as it was announced it would be. Which means that the actual landing was about 12:17, if there was a 14 minute delay. This is OK by me, but I have been scratching my head about it ever since.


In the advertisements for the general public, they did not want people thinking they could find out if the mission was a success at the wrong time, so they published the time that the confirmation signal was expected to arrive at mission control rather than the actual time of landing.
dutchman
not rated yet Aug 07, 2012
The most amazing thing in my mind is, that Curiosity pretty much had to land itself, getting instructions that were stored in the on-board computer, and (I understand) able to make last minute corrections based on information from the obstacle avoidance cameras.

I can understand the elation at NASA that despite all the uncertainty, this was pretty much a perfect landing.
UberGoober
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
The most amazing thing in my mind is, that Curiosity pretty much had to land itself, getting instructions that were stored in the on-board computer, and (I understand) able to make last minute corrections based on information from the obstacle avoidance cameras.

I can understand the elation at NASA that despite all the uncertainty, this was pretty much a perfect landing.

For sure, USA got a gold medal on that one.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2012
The most amazing thing in my mind is, that Curiosity pretty much had to land itself, getting instructions that were stored in the on-board computer


Curiosity had to COMPLETELY land itself. There is absolutely zero contact with the spacecraft during the landing except for the "heartbeat pings" that it sends out. The spacecraft does not have any antena deployed to listen for commands while it is landing, even if there was someone there to send commands. All of the instructions on how and where to land were finalized and tested and checked and re-tested and re-checked days in advance of the landing. Even the instructions to the MRO on where and when to snap that cool parachute photograph were set 3 days ahead of the landing.