Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gale Crater Region, Mars

It's been an entire year now since Curiosity landed on Mars!  On August 6, 2012 Curiosity made one of the most astounding landings ever in order to begin its mission of determining Mars's former climate.  During that landing, the parachute slowed the capsule down from about 1,300mph (2080km/h) to 220mph (354 km/h) before the powered descent and sky crane took over for the last bit of the descent.  The University of Arizona's HiRISE camera (Hi Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to capture the capsule (containing the rover) parachuting towards the Martian surface.  The gif below superimposes that image to a previous image taken by the same camera.  The resolutions and angle of the images were slightly different so the before and after gif isn't perfect.  I did my best, painstakingly trying to align the two so I don't want to hear any complaints.

The animation below shows about a months difference in time with the parachute image taken on August 6, 2012:

Here is a much higher resolution view of the parachute and capsule:
Source: University of Arizona HiRISE

Video from YouTube of the landing (with increased frames per second):

You can find it yourself on Google Earth by switching to Google Mars and using the toolbar on the left for the Curiosity Mission.

More info from sources referenced: Wikipedia MSL, HiRISE