NASA just released this mind-blowing image of last night’s excitement:
This amazing image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) from a distance of just over 200 miles, while the Curiosity roving vehicle, still covered by its 15-foot diameter ”back-shell,” was about 2 miles above the surface of Mars and descending beneath a 50-foot diameter parachute at about 200 mph.
Seconds after this picture was taken Curiosity dropped free from the parachute and back-shell and continued descending and decelerating with rockets.
This is the second time that NASA has used MRO to capture an image of a landing on Mars from orbit.
On May 27, 2008, NASA’s “Phoenix” lander was getting ready to land near Mars’ northern polar region, and they used the “HiRISE” high-resolution camera on MRO to snap a picture of Phoenix descending under its parachute.
This is the kind of amazing work you can do when you’ve got a small fleet of spacecraft (OK, three spacecraft) orbiting Mars while at the same time you have active missions to explore Mars from the surface.
This combination of hi-powered cameras orbiting Mars and hi-powered cameras on the Martian surface is going to make for some spectacular imagery in the coming weeks, months and years.
I like to think of where we are in the exploration of Mars like this: Previous missions to Mars have taught us a lot about the planet, but they’re kind of like the foreward to a texbook you’re anxious to read. The book’s Forewad tells you why should be excited about what’s coming, but you haven’t yet really dug into the subject.
With the combination of MRO, Mars Odyssey and Mars Express orbiting above and looking down, and the Curiosity rover and the 2004 Opportunity rover on the ground, we now begin with The Book of Mars – Chapter 1, page 1. It promises to be an amzaing book.