Video Shows Curiosity's Mars Descent
August 7, 2012

Low-Resolution Video Shows Curiosity’s Descent

[ Watch the Video: Curiosity Descending Towards Mars ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA released a low-resolution video taken by Mars newest citizen, Curiosity, as it hurtled its way towards the Red Planet.

The video is derived from 297 color, low-resolution images, giving you a view of the surface of Mars coming closer and closer.

NASA said that this is just a view of the approximately 1,504 images of descent currently held in the rover's onboard memory.

Once the highest resolution images are put together, the video is expected to depict the rover's descent from the moment the entry system's heat shield is released through touchdown.

"The image sequence received so far indicates Curiosity had, as expected, a very exciting ride to the surface," Mike Malin, imaging scientist for the Mars Science Lab mission from Malin Space Systems in San Diego, said in a press release. "But as dramatic as they are, there is real other-world importance to obtaining them. These images will help the mission scientists interpret the rover's surroundings, the rover drivers in planning for future drives across the surface, as well as assist engineers in their design of forthcoming landing systems for Mars or other worlds."

The photos were taken by the onboard Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), which is located on the chassis of the rover. Just before the heat shield fell away, MARDI started to snap photos.

The images selected by the rover to send to Earth first were taken at different points in Curiosity's final descent.

During the video, one of the earliest images that can be seen shows the vehicle's heat shield falling away after separating from Curiosity.

Another set of images depicts the final moments as the rover was lowered toward the Martian surface by the Sky Crane. During this part of the video, dust can be seen being kicked up by the Sky Crane's 742 pounds of thrust rockets.

"A good comparison is to that grainy onboard film from Apollo 11 when they were about to land on the moon," Malin said.

The images downloaded so far are low-resolution thumbnails, 192 by 144 pixels. As communications between rover and Earth become more robust, full-frame images 1,600 by 1,200 pixels in size will provide a complete story of the rover's landing onto the planet.

NASA also released a new high-resolution Hazcam image of Mount Sharp located in the Gale Crater. Mount Sharp is Curiosity's target for exploration.