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NASA Releases HD Video Of Mars Rover Landing

Submitted by on August 23, 2012 – 8:43 amOne Comment

Join NASA’s Curiousity Mars rover for a hair-raising ride as it touches down on the red planet in this amazing HD video.

(Is it bad that the first few seconds of this video immediately made me think of the escape pod launch in Star Wars?)

That’s right- NASA has HD video of a Mars landing. Let’s just think about how unbelievably awesome that is. Break it down into components:

  • NASA landed on Mars. (I wish I could say “we” landed on Mars, but I was not crunching numbers next to Bobak Ferdowski. Still, it’s cool just to think that people from the same species as us were able to do this.) Mars is a moving target 34 million miles away through the void of space. NASA has actually done this before, which is equally amazing- so this time, to kick things up a notch, the rover vehicle was the size of a small car, making the landing infinitely more difficult. NASA had to scrap their previous landing systems, which would not have been able to slow down and protect such a large vehicle.
  • There’s video of the landing. So NASA not only landed the thing, they can film it and beam that info back over the 34 million miles. My mom is still amazed when she gets a text from across town.
  • The video is HD. Really? Because I would have been happy with shaky iPhone footage if it meant seeing Mars first hand.

Wired explains the different stages of what you’re seeing in the video:

The video starts with Curiosity’s heat shield being jettisoned from its landing stage body — comprised of the rover tucked up beneath a UFO-like platform. The rover hovers for a while under its parachute, wobbling back and forth as it takes in the spectacular view of craters and the lower reaches of Mount Sharp, its eventual target. Vertigo kicks in as the rover dives lower and the engines kick in for Curiosity’s powered descent sequence.

Though they can’t be seen in the video, the rover gets lowered down on 25-foot-long cables for its “sky crane” maneuver near the end. Just before hitting the Martian soil, the engines kick up a huge amount of dust and pebbles, which obscures the ground and may be responsible for damaging one of Curiosity’s wind sensors. The soft landing went off with pitch-perfect precision and was a big victory for NASA engineers.

So, so cool. What do you think of the Curiousity landing video?

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