About six minutes in to the rover’s seven minutes of terror -- the time it took for Curiosity to reach the surface of Mars from the edge of its atmosphere -- the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a pass over the landing site, the Gale crater.
When it did, it took a stunning photo. In it, you can clearly see Curiosity, its parachute deployed, floating toward the surface of the planet.
The Odyssey satellite got all the credit Sunday night because it was responsible for relaying signals back to Earth about whether the descent and landing were working correctly. But, JPL scientist Sarah Milkovich said Monday morning, Odyssey “wasn’t the only orbiter listening.” The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, was also circling Mars.
“And with the MRO we weren’t just listening, we were watching,” Milkovich said. The MRO's high-resolution camera, called HiRISE, also played a key role in helping NASA scientists choose the Gale crater as the landing site.