Just after I told a friend that there was no way we could actually see the Curiosity rover descending to Mars, this image came along. Wow. I’m glad to be proven wrong! Here’s the new Mars rover – which touched down on Mars last night (5:31 UTC on August 6) – descending by parachute to the Red Planet’s surface.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – which carries the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera – captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe “Mt. Sharp.” From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.
Bottom line: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the Curiosity rover as it descended by parachute to the surface of Mars.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.