Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mars Rover Curiosity Lands Safely Begins Sending Video and Images

NASA's newest Mars mission has passed its first hurdle with the successful landing of the new Mars rover Curiosity. Showing off their success NASA has posted a short low resolution video which captured the final minutes of Curiosity's descent onto the planet.

The video was created by images recorded by the Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, and pieced together at four frames per second to detail the final two and a half minutes of the rover's descent. According to NASA, the images needed to be reduced by a factor of eight in order for them to be sent back to Earth quickly. Higher resolution images (1600 by 1200) will be beamed to Earth in the coming months.

During the descent, the passing Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a shot of the rover's supersonic parachute, which was designed to slow it from 900 miles per hour to around 200 miles per hour. The separated heat shield can be seen falling toward the surface.

The rover also sent a picture that shows the north wall and rim of the Gale Crater, the section of the planet where Curiosity touched down. The image is murky because the dust cover on the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) hasn't been removed. During the descent, dust kicked up by the Sky Crane's rockets coated the lens, but the protective cover will be removed in the coming weeks. MAHLI's main purpose is to capture close-ups of rocks and soil -- it can focus as close as 2.1 centimeters -- but can also focus to infinity, allowing it to capture images like the one of the Martian landscape.

More details on the landing as well as all the images currently available can be seen on the NASA Mars Sciences Laboratory home page.

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