Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Landing on Mars: a first-person account

The coverage of Curiosity's landing yesterday was pretty awesome, right? I thought so too. But I had also thought that the lander was capturing video of its own descent, which was going to be streamed live. That didn't appear to be the case.

But it turns out I was half-right. The lander actually captured more than 1,500 high-resolution images during its descent; when sequenced, those will of course look a lot like a video.

Curiosity is still warming up on the surface of Mars, and there are many higher priorities for bandwidth than getting those images back to Earth. In the meantime, however, it has sent nearly 300 low-resolution images of the landing, which are good enough for security-camera-style video.

HOW COOL IS THAT? You see the heat shield fall away, you see the surface approaching, you even see the dust kicked up by the "sky crane's" engines as it hovers and lowers the lander. I can't wait to see what the full-length, full-resolution images show; someday, that will roughly be the view of astronauts as they hurtle toward another giant step for mankind.

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