Monday, September 17, 2012

Stunning Visuals - Mars Curiosity and PlanetFest 2012

By now, Curiosity has already sent back a treasure trove of thousands of images. They are all archived and accessible here, with new images added daily.

Below is a collection of images and videos that are among my personal favorites so far. Enjoy.

This is the very first image from Mars Curiosity, sent within minutes of the rover's touchdown. One of the wheels is visible in the lower right. We saw this live at Planet Fest 2012 in Pasadena on August 5, 2012, as the image came in. 

If you look below, just to the left of the center on the horizon, you will note what looks like three dots, one sitting on top of the other two, which in turn touch the horizon. Astute observers of this initial image noted that this feature was not in comparable images taken by Curiosity later on. The initial buzz over this discrepancy soon calmed down, as NASA confirmed that what we're looking at in the image below is the dust plume thrown up into the Martian atmosphere upon Skycrane's impact. That is why this "feature" is no longer visible in later images.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which is orbiting Mars, used its HiRISE instrument to snap this picture of Curiosity under its descent chute, just prior to touchdown on Mars at Bradbury Landing:

One of the most stunning images that Curiosity has sent back so far, is this interactive panoramic view of Bradbury Landing and Gale Crater. Click and explore the surface of Mars in color! (Copyright: Hans Nyberg,

Everyone who has been following Curiosity's wondrous journey, has seen this NASA video, dubbed "7 Minutes of Terror", which details the intricacy, complexity and engineering precision required to land Curiosity on target and intact:


And then, of course, there is this spoof video (not made by NASA) that quickly went viral. You'll see why (if you haven't already).      

Finally, a friend and I having fun inside one of XCOR's Lynx 2-seater space plane mockups at PlanetFest:       

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