NASA Releases Image Of Curiosity’s Descent To The Martian Surface

Incredibly, NASA was able to capture an image of the Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars early this morning:

NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. 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.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA’s Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

Here’s a more detailed image:


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Way, way, cool. Us space junkies from the 60s are having fun today.

  2. Dazedandconfused says:

    They should have advertized they would be in contact with the thing through the descent. It was very fun to watch. Living in PDT made it a 10:15 event. Prime time, or close enough.

    Was an interesting contrast switching back and forth from NASA’s live feed and CNN. Sometimes, cable news people don’t know when to shut up. Make that a lot of the time. The live feed was fantastic drama all by itself.

    You go guys. Best of luck on the mission. Latest pic…

  3. @Dazedandconfused:

    Ha! That pic is hilarious

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @John Peabody: What can’t they do? Also on the way way cool side for space junkies: My wife has an app for her Ipad that has 100 pictures from the Hubble. It was free and if recall correctly, via NASA.

  5. tps says:

    I thought that they should have named the rover ‘Duck Dodgers’.