This color full-resolution image showing the heat shield of NASA's Curiosity rover was obtained during descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft.
Like a patchwork parachute, the descent images of NASA's Curiosity have been sewn into a story of what it feels like to smack the surface of a far away planet. The new HD video (below) shows the spacecraft's skydive onto the surface of Mars using full-resolution images of the rover's descent.
Notes YouTube user dlfitch:
As of August 20, all but a dozen 1600x1200 frames have been uploaded from the rover, and those missing were interpolated using thumbnail data.The result was applied a heavy noise reduction, color balance, and sharpening for best visibility. The video plays at 15fps, or 3x realtime. The heat shield impacts in the lower left frame at 0:21, and is shown enlarged at the end of the video.
On Wednesday it was also announced that Curiosity's landing site had been named for the late author Ray Bradbury on what would have been his 92nd birthday.
Bradbury Landing then bid goodbye to Curiosity as the rover passed the driving test, making its first movement and leaving its first wheel tracks on the Martian surface. The rover is now roughly 20 feet from where it landed 16 days ago, said NASA in a news release.
During a news conference today at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the mission's lead rover driver, Matt Heverly, showed an animation derived from visualization software used for planning the first drive. "We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead," Heverly said.