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Curiosity landing on Mars, from a skydiver's point of view

August 23, 2012|By Amy Hubbard

The newly released version of NASA's descent video showing Curiosity zipping down to Mars takes the perspective of "a skydiver's helmet-cam," says a mission scientist.

The video, taken by the Mars Descent Imager, features mission control audio, synced up with the video to give an overall picture of the landing drama on Aug. 5.

"So now we can see what the spacecraft was doing when we all had our ears glued to the flight directors who were calling out the landing," said Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist with the Curiosity mission, in an interview Thursday with the Los Angeles Times.

The Imager is a small camera attached to the left side of the rover that points straight down, the scientist said.

"The movie starts in the dark, when Curiosity was still enclosed in the capsule that brought her to Mars," he said. "Then the heat shield falls away, and you can see a glorious view of Mars and a dark field of sand dunes near our landing site."

In the NASA video, the rover then "swings gently on her parachute," he added.

The rocket-powered descent follows and leads to a dramatic ending in which dust and pebbles are blown about and the so-called sky crane manuever lowered the rover, using tethers, to the surface.

With the images widely available to the public, people have been making their own versions of the landing footage, which Vasavada and NASA fully support.

"I've helped plan this for eight years," he said, "and I still can't believe we have it."


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