Emily LakdawallaAug 06, 2012

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE has done it again!!

In 2008, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped an amazing photo of Phoenix descending to the surface of Mars under its parachute. Now it's repeated the feat, with Curiosity. I think this image pretty much speaks for itself. Absolutely stunning.

Curiosity descending under parachute
Curiosity descending under parachute Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is two for two in the amazing feat of capturing photos of landers descending to the surface of Mars. This version was released several days after the landing; it has been corrected for optical blur.Image: NASA / JPL / UA

For more on how this image was taken -- and how hard it was -- check out Eric Hand's article at Nature News.

I want you to sit back and think about what was going on when this was taken. Both spacecraft were operating totally autonomously, based upon commands uplinked to them a long time before. (Some timing parameters were updated hours before.) This is a spaceship at Mars, and we have a photo of it in action, just minutes before its historic landing. Incredible.

And beautiful.

This image leaked before it should have. There's a press briefing coming up in 16 minutes (as I write this). I hope to see a wider view of it at the briefing. Stay tuned!

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