Hours after the historic landing of Nasa's Curiosity rover on Mars, the spacecraft started sending low-resolution images back to earth. Meanwhile, the celebrity rover was "paparazzied" by another camera capturing its act.
"Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars. We definitely caught Nasa's newest celebrity in the act," says Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Curiosity's landing act was actually captured by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) while the rover was still connected to its 51-foot parachute.
"If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty landscape. When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realise how challenging this picture was to obtain," said Milkovich.
Nasa's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on 5 Aug PDT (6 Aug EDT). - Nasa
Nasa scientists at a press conference released a video compilation of nearly 300 pictures of the rover's landing on the red planet.
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"It is an engineering experiment just to watch it. But, the pictures are very pretty," Nasa's Mike Malin told reporters.
The images showed the final two and half minutes landing of Curiosity. Right at the beginning when nearing the Martian landscape, the protective heat shield was falling away as the dust from Mars surface kicked up.
The rover was then gradually dropped by the cables inside a crater.
Although the images were of low resolution, they allowed experts to close in on its exact location in Mars, latitude of -4.5895 and a longitude of 137.4417.
High-resolution images will reach the lab in another few weeks' time depending on the priority. The full video will be exquisite, assured Malin.
The one-tonne laboratory is of the size of a compact car. The Mars Science Laboratory has, over the course of 254 days, covered 560 million kilometres to travel from earth to Mars and cost around $2.5 billion (£1.6 billion).
Curiosity is on a two-year mission to the red planet to investigate whether it has previously harboured life.
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