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Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Curiosity Over

And the gold medal goes to… NASA, or at least it should for sending a nuclear powered Mini-Cooper sized rover to Mars and successfully sticking the landing.

It sounds improbable – this rover is large, not like the gizmos we’ve sent in the past. And in order to land it without destroying it a parachute had to be opened, a heat shield had to be ejected, jets had to be engaged at precisely the right moment to float a landing platform, and then the rover, Curiosity, had to be lowered by a tether. Once on the surface the tether had to be cut and the platform flown away to crash elsewhere without endangering the rover.

The potential points of failure must have been enormous and that’s not even factoring in getting from Earth to Mars.

Parachute open, Curiousity begins its descent to Mars. NASA photo. August 6, 2012. Click to enlarge.

The photo above, taken by another craft – the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, was originally b+w. I colored it using a Martian tint from another NASA photo of the landing site and added some contrast.

Curiosity is already sending back photos and video. The feed plus information on the mission can be found here: NASA Mars Science Laboratory.

Mars rover Curiosity. NASA photo.

Update 08/08/12 – A look at the cameras used by Curiosity via PopPhoto.

Pre-launch test images from the cameras (e.g. field of view, level of detail, and focus ability when the the cameras are used here on earth.)

A good summation of the above via

Wired magazine – The Photo-Geek’s Guide to Curiosity Rover’s 17 Cameras.