Curiosity Adjusts to Life on Mars

Posted August 7th, 2012 at 5:23 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

First color image of the Martian landscape returned from curiosity 08-06-12 (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

First color image of the Martian landscape returned from curiosity 08-06-12 (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

On its first full solar day on Mars, the Curiosity rover is under going a month-long series of health checks before getting down to its mission of exploring the chemistry of Mars.

Curiosity isn’t expected to drill its first drill hole in a Mars rock for about another month or two, according to Rob Manning, the Mars mission’s chief engineer.

However, we’re already getting some interesting images of the red planet.

Almost two hours after Monday’s  touchdown, the rover started snapping pictures of its new home in  Mars’ Gale Crater.

But even before that, some of Curiosity’s trip through the thin Martian atmosphere and subsequent landing were caught on camera by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the planet for over six years.

Curiosity and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on 0500 UTC 08-06-12. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Curiosity and its parachute were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on 0500 UTC 08-06-12. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, caught Curiosity while it was still connected to its almost 16-meter parachute as it descended to its landing site.

A camera aboard  Curiosity itself took a sequence of self-portraits of its trip through the Martian atmosphere as well.

According NASA, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) snapped over 1,500 images which are being stored within Curiosity’s onboard memory banks.  When those images are put together at the highest resolution, they should produce a video showing the rover’s descent from the time its heat shield was released, all the way until it touched down on Mars.

This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. (Video: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Until  we get that detailed video of Curiosity’s descent and touchdown, we’ll have to be satisfied with  297 color, low-resolution images the rover recently beamed back to Earth.

This image taken by Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image taken by Curiosity shows Mars’ Mount Sharp. The rover’s shadow can also be seen. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“The image sequence received so far indicates Curiosity had, as expected, a very exciting ride to the surface,” says Mike Malin from Malin Space Systems in San Diego, the imaging scientist for the Mars mission. “But as dramatic as they are, there is real other-world importance to obtaining them. These images will help the mission scientists interpret the rover’s surroundings, the rover drivers in planning for future drives across the surface, as well as assist engineers in their design of forthcoming landing systems for Mars or other worlds.”

Other activities planned for the Curiosity today include setting up its high-gain antenna, collecting science data from the system’s Radiation Assessment Detector and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station instruments, as well as picking up  additional imagery of its surroundings.

This is all part of the mission’s characterization activity phase, which tests how Curiosity’s subsystems and instruments are functioning after landing and within the environment and gravitational field of Mars.

2 Responses to “Curiosity Adjusts to Life on Mars”

  1. jake says:

    Note to the author, the hirise camera that snapped the photo of the descent is not an Odyssey camera. The hirise picture was taken by the mars reconnaissance orbiter, which is a different spacecraft than Odyssey.

    • Hello and thank-you’re absolutely right the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, my mistake. I’ve made the correction to the story. Thanks again for pointing this out.

About Science World

Science World

Science World is VOA’s on-air and online magazine covering science, health, technology and the environment.

Hosted by Rick Pantaleo, Science World‘s informative, entertaining and easy-to-understand presentation offers the latest news, features and one-on-one interviews with researchers, scientists, innovators and other news makers.

Listen to a Recent Program

Listen Sidebar

Broadcast Schedule

Broadcast Schedule

Science World begins after the newscast on Friday at 2200, Saturday at 0300, 1100 and 1900 and Sunday at 0100, 0400, 0900, 1100 and 1200.

Science World may also be heard on some VOA affiliates after the news on Saturday at 0900 and 1100. (All times UTC).

Contact Us

E-Mail
science@voanews.com

Postal Mail
Science World
Voice of America
330 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20237
USA