Monday, August 06, 2012

Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter Catches Curiosity In Mid-Air!

Wow, after the hugely exciting landing Monday morning of the Mars Rover Curiosity and the first three pictures from the lander, I didn't think that could be upstaged even for a second....Well, let me take those words back because according to an NBC.Com photo posted from NASA, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that wowed the crowd this morning with an incredible picture of the rover at the end of its parachute, six minutes into the seven minute landing maneuver, still under the 'chute!

It would seem that this was not all by chance however....again according to the article:
  • The orbiter's imaging team had planned the shot for months, and the payoff came when MRO snapped the picture from a distance of 211 miles. (The photo shows) Curiosity was about 2 miles above the Martian surface, still protected inside its Mars Science Laboratory back shell and heat shield.

The timing was so critical that if the photo had been taken one second before or after this one was snapped, there would have been nothing in the frame! Even more surprising is that HiRise controllers had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken!

I can remember the Curiosity controllers describing where the orbiters were in relationship to the rover and that any pictures being taken or data being transferred would have to deal with crafts at high angles and very close to the horizon. In any case, the MRO stands tall even in the big shadow cast by the arrival of Curiosity.

For those that are interested -  the resolution for the photo is a bit over 13 inches per pixel.  (Not bad, I will take that!)

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