Orbiting Camera Sees Curiosity’s Parachute Flapping in the Martian Breeze

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April 3 2013 3:06 PM

Curiosity’s Parachute Flaps in the Martian Wind

Sometimes, things are just too cool not to mention. Like, say, the orbiting HiRISE camera seeing the Curiosity rover’s parachute flapping in the Martian wind!

Like I said: too cool. The animation was made from seven images taken over the course of several months; the changes in between each frame are due to changing light conditions, angle of the camera to the ground, and so on. You can see the back shell that protected the parachute to the upper right; the full length of the parchute to back shell is about 50 meters.

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There may be some science to glean from this: the direction and strength of the wind, information on how durable the parachute is, how it can kick off dust coating it, things like that. These could be useful in planning future missions.

But c’mon! It’s a series of pictures showing the gentle motion of a human-made object that helped another human-made object land on another world.

We humans do amazing things when we try. We should try more often.

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