Mars Orbiter Sees ‘Curiosity’ Probe as it Lands by Parachute: PHOTO


A spectacular photo of NASA's 'Curiosity' probe on its descent to Mars was captured by the  Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which began circling the red planet in 2006.

Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe "Mt. Sharp." From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA's Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

Incidentally, this is NOT the first such photograph.

Back in May 2008 I published a shot taken from the Mars Orbiter of the previous rover, the Phoenix Mars Lander, on its descent by parachute. Check it out HERE.