Video of Curiosity saying bye bye to its heat shield

By Phil Plait | August 8, 2012 1:41 pm

As the rover Curiosity descended to the surface of Mars, the heat shield that protected it from the heat of atmospheric entry was ejected while still high above the rusty plains. Cameras pointed downward captured images of the heat shield as it fell away, and folks at JPL put together this short video of it:

How cool is that? Mind you, that’s flippin’ Mars in the background! And we also have a shot of the heat shield lying on the ground a few hundred meters away from the rover’s landing spot, too.

I’ll have more stuff from the rover soon, too. It’s getting hard to keep up with all the news coming from Mars!

Related Posts:

Curiosity landing site: the whole mess
VIDEO of Curiosity’s descent… from the rover cam itself!
Curiosity update: Heat shield spotted!
Mars orbiter catches pic of Curiosity on its way down!
Humans send their Curiosity to Mars!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Space
MORE ABOUT: Curiosity, heat shield, Mars

Comments (22)

  1. Infinite123Lifer

    Thats so cool at 22 and 23 seconds when the heat shield first seperates! Wowzer! I had been wondering what the backside of a Mars Rover destined heat shield might look like. Now I know! :)

    A bit of pareidolia perhaps…the darker ground . . . on Mars :) looks to me like a fuzzy space ship with huge chemtrails. Hope I am not reading more into that. wink wink

    This has already been such an invigorating and captivating experience. It surely will not ever be forgotten. The best part is . . . we CAN do this and we ARE.

    Heres with hope for the future. Thank you.

  2. Vince

    Awesome! The way that it falls without flipping over or wobbling and then hits the dust really gives you a feel for how thin the atmosphere there is.

  3. Tony

    heh..its our flying saucer..and its landing on Mars!

  4. Gustav

    The descent timelapse they released before – part of which is posted above – was only in thumbnail quality. The whole thing was captured in glorious high definition, and will be released later at some point. NASA announced this at their press conference earlier today.

    Here’s the one frame they have released thus far:

    I literally cannot wait for the new HD timelapse video!

  5. Cyn

    @Tony LOL and yes I seen this video already. It was fascinating. I wish Mars wasn’t so blurry but I guess it was because it wasn’t close enough to the ground yet. 😛

  6. Denier

    This is what I come here to see. More of this, less of CAGW please, if you would be so kind.

  7. The Mutt

    All these stunning photos from millions of miles away, yet we still don’t have a legitimate photo of Bigfoot, Nessie or Dolly Parton topless.

  8. Dylan

    Mr. Plait,

    Do you know when we will receive some nice HD pictures from the other cameras on board the MSL?

  9. Kerthunk

    The rover was later fined $300 for littering by the martian government.

  10. Yes, when Does the Litter Picker-upper launch?

  11. Wzrd1

    Bleh, the images from the mast camera were FAR better!
    Though it DID seem familiar. It looks nearly identical to my mental image of the worst possible vacation spot. No visible life, no useful air, dust and rocks only, cold…
    Yep! Great spot to send a robot, nowhere NEAR a vacation destination!

  12. “We want scale models of NASA’s Curiosity Rover, and we want them now.”


    Would be nice next to this one in my curiosity (hehehe) cabinet.

  13. Ken (a different Ken)

    Not quite OT question:

    I understand the primary reason for the skycrane is to avoid dust kicked up by the thrusters contaminating instruments.

    But Mars has big dust storms from time to time – Spirit and Oppie are just covered with the stuff.

    Aren’t the instruments protected from the dust they would encounter from Martian weather? Why wouldn’t that suffice to protect them from dust kicked up at landing?

    Or is dust the reason that the expected lifespan is only a (Martian) year?

  14. @13 Ken
    The SkyCrane was needed because of the weight of the rover, which is about a ton.
    And dust is not such a problem for Curiosity since it runs on a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). Hence no solar panels that can be covered with dust.
    See Wiki for more on that:

  15. TimO

    In 5,000 years some future archeologist is going to have a heart attack when he digs that up!!

  16. Brian

    #14 SkyGazer and #13 different Ken,
    The rocket-powered descent and landing were necessary because of the weight, but the need to separate the rockets from the lander with 25 feet of cable was attributed to dust. Since the rover must be tolerant of dust storms, and we saw plenty of dust being kicked up under the rover in the landing video, the simplistic “We need to drop it on a crane so it doesn’t get dusty” explanation seems lacking.

    I’m guessing that putting the descent engines closer to the rover would have exposed it to extremely high-velocity dust, which would have caused much more abrasion than the normal dust storms and might cause dust infiltration into otherwise protected areas.

  17. DanO

    I like how it falls almost directly into the shadow of the parachute. The arc of shadow persists for about 15 frames.

  18. Nangleator

    Is it too soon for the conspiracy theories?

    A) Faked! It really just landed on the Moon. James Cameron personally added the atmosphere, in MS Paint.

    B) Clear evidence of a UFO encounter over Arizona was modified to look like Mars, and the back story of a NASA probe was created.

    C) Ancient aliens on Mars… the featureless plains were obviously smoothed out to cover evidence of their works.

    D) The face… there’s a face there somewhere… let me add several generations of JPG compression damage and it’ll pop right out…

  19. Ken (a different Ken)

    #17 Brian: Thanks, that sounds reasonable!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar