Two New Videos Show Curiosity’s Touchdown and Heat Shield Hitting Mars

by Nancy Atkinson on August 18, 2012

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Wow, this is better than any theatrical movies of fictional ships landing on Mars, because this is REAL! The images and videos from the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) camera on the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft keep getting more amazing as the science team goes through their data and refines all the awesome action events from landing that the camera was able to capture. The video above is from a sequence of images which shows Curiosity’s heat shield slamming into the surface and raising a cloud of dust!! MARDI took the images while the rover was still suspended on a parachute and, of course, after the spacecraft had jettisoned the heat shield.

We also have a full resolution color MARDI image below which was sent to us by Rolf Wahl Olsen, pointing out where the heat shield is sitting on the surface.

And another great video below is of Curiosity gently touching down on Mars. This was also taken by MARDI and is a higher resolution version that what was previously available. MARDI is on the bottom of the rover, so you see the surface of Mars coming up at you, and then see the dust swirling as the sky crane’s rocket thrusters blasted the Mars regolith. Additionally, on the descent, one of the rover’s wheel’s comes into view as it unfolds in preparation for landing! Awesome!

UPDATE: (Aug. 19)

This video was put together by Doug Ellison of UnmannedSpaceflight.com, which shows Curiosity’s entire descent, starting with the heat shield jettison until touchdown and provides a “smoother” view of the entire landing:

Caption: High resolution image from MARDI of Curiosity’s descent. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

Click on the image for a larger version, or see the original raw version here. “It’s the little back irregular spot in the middle near the bottom edge,” Olsen said. “It’s not in the image before that, and it fits perfectly with the ‘crime scene’ photo released earlier,” which you can see here. If you look closely, the impact crater is even visible in this image!

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Dampe August 19, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Pretty sweet stuff. I’m excited for future movies from the surface of the gas giants moons.

henk August 19, 2012 at 1:56 PM

those are very nice video’s. It is to bad that te mars surfuce is so boring

Aqua4U August 19, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Wowie! Thanks for posting all the great baby pics from Curiosity.. so cool! It’s fascinating to watch the amount of dust the heat shield disturbed as it crashed into the surface, how much dust was lofted by the landing rockets too! I just wish NASA had included a ‘leaf blower’ on the lander? Or hovered a tad longer over the LZ?

Typhon1 August 19, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Fascinating. Wouldn’t it have wonderful if there had been a microphone on board so we could hear the sound of the descent engines.

Phil Zerr August 20, 2012 at 9:02 PM

I said this before but I am surprised they do not put a microphone in the unit. Would take up very little room and I would think it would not require much processing power. With an array they could even pinpoint sources of noise. Could be useful if they caught small rock slide or hear weather issues and be able to video it. At minimum, would make awesome IMAX video if it had real audio. Might have to do some DSP work to change for human range with the low air pressure though.

Gina Rossillini August 20, 2012 at 6:40 AM

I may not live long enough to see man visit the Martian surface, but in a way I have with these robotic missions . . . they have been splendid, fantastic and out of this world . . . .
in my lifetime I have seen man put his instruments of knowledge upon the surface of another world . . .

Phil Zerr August 20, 2012 at 8:55 PM

I am watching a chunk of metal fall to the ground and kick up a little dust …. and I am still impressed.

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