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!
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.