Join Donate

Emily LakdawallaAugust 6, 2012

First look at Curiosity MARDI's descent animation (WOW WOW)

MARDI -- the Mars Descent Imager, the camera I described in great detail in this post -- has already lived up to its promise, and it's hardly begun. Let me set the scene for you briefly. MARDI is a HD color camera bolted to the front left side of the rover, pointed down. It started recording images at a rate of 4.5 frames per second shortly before the heat shield was jettisoned, and shot photos all the way down. The full-resolution images are 1600 by 1200 pixels, and the full video will be breathtaking when it's available. That won't be for a while.

What we have on the ground now from MARDI is incredible, and it's nothing like what we'll eventually get. What we have now is a stop-motion animation of 297 individual frames. The frames are "thumbnails," downsampled versions of the full-resolution data. Here's an example, showing the heat shield:

MARDI low-resolution view of Curiosity's heat shield

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

MARDI low-resolution view of Curiosity's heat shield

Curiosity sent these thumbnails to Earth in order to give the MARDI team a sense of when the most important images were taken, so that they can make good choices of which full-resolution frames to send first. So the animation will get way, way better than this.

It begins with the heat shield about 15 meters below the rover, glinting in the Sun. It falls away quickly, vanishing into invisibility. We see red Mars below it, spinning as the rover spins. At one point there's a sudden change in perspective, likely a result of the "divert maneuver" that Curiosity executed after it cut its connection to its parachute. As Curiosity approaches the ground, we start to see a plume of dust being kicked up. The Skycrane maneuver begins, and simultaneously the wheels deploy; one wheel (the left front, I think) pops into view in one corner. As the rover settles to the ground and the wheels take up its weight, the wheel moves out of the field of view again.

We know you love reading about space exploration, but did you know you can make it happen?

Take our Space Priorities survey and consider a gift to our Space Policy and Advocacy program to fuel more missions, more science, and more exploration.

Read more: pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, podcasts and videos, spacecraft, Mars, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory), animation

You are here:
Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla (2017, alternate)
Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

Comments & Sharing
Mars
Your Space Priorities

Moon or Mars? Low-Earth orbit or deep space? Share your voice for space exploration.

Take Survey

Mars
More Space Exploration

More Missions. More Science. More Exploration. Your support is essential and leads to the joy of discovery.

Donate