By Justine Espersen
NASA’s rover Curiosity successfully landed in Gale Crater of Mars and its split second descent towards its landing site was captured by one of NASA’s satellites in orbit while still connected to its 51-foot-wide parachute.
As the 2.6 billion Curiosity fully deployed to Mars, it accelerated from 8.000 mph to almost 13,200 mph, stopping to a slow 2 mph landing.
“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Millkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, Calif. “When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain.”
The image was taken while the MRO satellite was 211 miles away from the parachuting rover, NASA said in a statement. The landing involved a sky crane and the world’s largest supersonic parachute.
“The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future,” President Barack Obama said in a statement congratulating NASA employees who were involved in the project.
According to NASA, “Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the mars rovers Spirit and
Opportunity.” Some of the tools include a “laser-firing instrument for checking rocks’ elemental composition from a distance.”
The next couple of days will simply include waiting for the rover’s exact location to be identified by the HiRISE satellite.
This was NASA’s seventh landing on Mars.