Masterminds, prepare to be gobsmacked. NASA has released an amazing video of Curiosity descending to Mars, from the perspective of the rover itself. The insane landing was captured by the Mars Science Laboratory's specialized camera, called the MARDI descent imager. And remember: THIS IS A VIDEO FROM MARS!
The video begins with the ejection of the heat shield that dutifully protected Curiosity from the Martian atmosphere. The shield falls much faster than the rover, thanks to the hypersonic parachute that slowed the latter's descent. After that, you can clearly see the landing site in Gale Crater approaching at breakneck speed: even with the parachute, Curiosity was still streaking across the Martian skies at 310 miles/hour. At 0:32 seconds, a huge amount of dust is kicked up, signalling that the rover's retrorockets have been deployed. Newton's third law of motion for the win!
In an awesome coda to the video, NASA included an up-close look at the heat shield's impact with Mars, which was not visible in the wide view. You know what that means, right? Humans have made their very own baby Martian crater! What should we call it? MindHut Valley?
And while Curiosity is the main Martian celeb these days, its success reminds us of some of the other landers' great hits. Check out this gorgeous panorama of every Mars landing in one awe-inspiring shot. Made by amateur astronomer Nickolay Lamm, the images remind us that Curiosity is only the latest darling of NASA's star-studded Martian exploration program.
What's your favorite part of Curiosity's landing video?