“Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars”

Another wondrous image from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).  This time the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard snapped the Red Planet’s “newest celebrity” – the Curiosity rover and its 51-foot-wide (almost 16 metre) parachute descending towards Gale Crater. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona]

From the Nasa/JPL press release

“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 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.”

And we also have Curiosity’s view of the descent from heatshield separation to the ground.

And, from the landing site in Gale Crater, Curiosity’s main science target, Mount Sharp. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

This image taken by NASA’s Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover — its main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover’s shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the highest peak Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change.

This image was captured by the rover’s front left Hazard-Avoidance camera at full resolution shortly after it landed. It has been linearized to remove the distorted appearance that results from its fisheye lens.

Adds  As the BBC spaceman, Jonathan Amos notes, HiRISE is producing more wondrous images. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona]

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA’s Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

The Curiosity rover is approximately 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) away from the heat shield; about 2,020 feet (615 meters) away from the parachute and back shell; and approximately 2,100 feet (650 meters) away from the discoloration consistent with the impact of the sky crane.

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