Watch as Curiosity touches down gently *and* its heat shield slams into Mars

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 18 2012 6:30 AM

Watch as Curiosity touches down gently *and* its heat shield slams into Mars

Some amazing videos are still coming out from NASA about the Mars Curiosity rover's descent to the planet's surface. This one is blink-and-you'll-miss-it-but-still-totally-freaking-cool: the heat shield slamming into the surface of Mars and blurting out a cloud of dust:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


Not only that, but the high-resolution pictures from the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI - a camera pointing down that took shots as the rover was lowered to the ground by the sky crane) have been sent back to Earth, and Spaceflight101 made this incredible video from them:

I love love LOVE the swirling dust set into motion at 00:41 by the sky crane's rocket thrusters once it got close enough to the ground. And you can see when one of the rover's wheels snaps down into place as well!

These videos are honestly astonishing to me. When I was a kid we had to wait forever to get (sometimes pretty cruddy) images from our space probes. Now we get flippin' color video of hardware slamming down and/or settling gently onto another planet! The pace of technological advancement may be most popular when it comes to things like cell phones and computers, but as a scientist I can tell you that the impact on our ability to do research has been profound almost beyond comprehension. Digital cameras that can be lofted into space, or made to see great gaping sections of the sky, or into the ultraviolet and infrared, or with high enough resolution to see incredibly small features on other planets... or all of the above. This technology has, quite literally, opened up whole new worlds to us.

It's a fantastic time to be alive. And to have Curiousity.

Tip o' the lens cap to BABloggee Dave Jerrard for the tip about the MARDI video.

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