SCIENCE

Satellite Image Of Mars Rover Curiosity Shows Parachute Deployed (PICTURE)

08/06/2012 06:20 pm 18:20:07 | Updated Aug 06, 2012

The animation, interactive feature and infographic showing the Mars Rover Curiosity's harrowing entry, landing and descent (EDL) are certainly phenomenal, but now NASA has released a picture of the real thing.

The image, taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows the supersonic parachute deployed to slow the spacecraft before landing early Monday morning.

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The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe "Mt. Sharp." From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

Curiosity approached the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph, and the parachute deployed when the craft slowed to about 900 mph. After the parachute cord was cut, rockets fired to slow the craft to a speed slow enough for the sky crane to lower the craft onto the planet's surface.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft that orbits the red planet, was launched in 2005 to search for evidence that water may have existed on Mars for an extended period of time.

LOOK: Curiosity Spotted on Parachute by Orbiter

curiosity rover parachute

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