This photograph brings some perspective to the amazing feat of landing a small vehicle on Mars:
The picture was taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter just as the spacecraft carrying Curiosity deployed its parachute. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment at The University of Arizona, which released the image, explains:
“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 visible. The cords connecting the parachute to the backshell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of Phoenix descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles.
“The bright spot on the backshell containing MSL might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. MSL was released from the backshell sometime after this image was acquired.”
One more thing: this picture was taken after the spacecraft had slowed from 13,000 mph to about 800 mph. As Mark Stencel reported for us early this morning, the “giant supersonic parachute” unfurled to slow it to about 200 mph.
If you want a closer look, click on the image and it’ll show you a zoomed-in version.