Curiosity has been caught in the act. Just a minute before landing, the HiRise camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter did what everyone was hoping for, and repeated the amazing feat of four years ago, when it snapped a picture of the parachute of the Phoenix lander. Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the HiRise camera, had estimated that there was only a 60% chance of getting this image, which leaked on Twitter. The snap of Curiosity’s parachute is expected to be 5 times richer than the one for Phoenix, both because MRO was closer and Curiosity’s parachute was bigger.
Over the past few days, people here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California have been fixated by an XBox video game that allows users to pilot in the rover themselves. And last night, it was the rich simulations of the landing sequence that held everyone’s attention. But it’s images like this, lonely and frail and beautiful, that get me. This is the real thing.
More details to come after the 9 am PDT press briefing.