Well, that was fast! The MARDI – MARs Descent Imager – was designed to take images as the Curiosity rover dropped down to the surface of Mars. Those thumbnail images have been put together into a stop-motion video that’s just jaw-droppingly cool:
[It helps to set the resolution to HD and make the video as big as possible.]
The video starts when the heat shield drops away – that’s the flying saucer-like thing right at the beginning, which was also seen from space by the MRO spacecraft orbiting Mars. The parachute has already deployed by the time the video starts, so you see the image sway as the rover swings underneath the chute.
The resolution is low, but you can see the features getting bigger as the rover descends. The rockets start firing, though you can’t see that in this video… at least, not until the 45 second mark where suddenly you can see a big puff of dust as the rockets’ plumes hit the surface!
I’ll let you think on that for just a second.
As dust on Mars swirls underneath the hanging rover, you can see one of the rover wheels drop down, and then, finally, Curiosity lands on its new home.
This is where we are folks: it’s not enough that we can send our robotic proxies to other worlds using a Wile. E. Coyote series of maneuvers, but now we can also return pictures as the machines descend and see them within hours of the event itself!*
This stuff just keeps getting cooler. Science! It rocks.
Tip o’ the dust cover to the Mars Curiosity Rover on Twitter itself!
* We did this for the Huygens lander that was dropped onto Saturn’s moon Titan from Cassini as well, I’ll note, though it took longer to get them.