Unbelievable. I just finished watching the landing on NASA-TV and I’m brimming with pride over the space agency’s magnificent accomplishment. We did it … again! The entire landing, from the moment when the cruise shell separated to parachute deployment and the final, rocket-powered descent via sky crane – flawless.
NASA was able to get the orbiting Mars Odyssey craft into position to receive data from Curiosity almost immediately after touchdown. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two after touchdown when the first picture was beamed over the big monitor at the Jet Propulsion Lab. As expected these were low resolution, black and white image taken by the small Hazard-Avoidance cameras mounted on the rover’s platform, but oh, how sweet they were!
The pictures show that the rover rests on nearly level ground strongly resembling my gravel driveway. Open, flat terrain is exactly what the mission’s planners hoped for. The fewer rocks, the safer the landing. It also means they can deploy the mast, which holds the high-resolution cameras, on schedule. We should see color pix from those later this week. I managed to grab a few screen shots of the scene I hope you’ll enjoy! To see the latest images arriving from the rover, click HERE.
While Odyssey received data and photos from Curiosity and sent them on to Earth, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got in for an even closer view to photograph the rover as it descended by parachute and sky crane. We should see those photos soon.