Nasa's Curiosity rover pictured on Mars by MRO satellite
Published: 7th Aug 2012 20:10:16
Nasa has used one of its satellites to image the Curiosity rover on Mars.
The picture shows not only the six-wheeled vehicle, but also all the components of its discarded landing system.
These items include the heatshield, the parachute and backshell of the entry capsule, and the skycrane that lowered the rover to the surface.
The image was acquired by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from 300km and at an oblique angle of 41 degrees.
"Even though these weren't the best viewing conditions, you can still see a lot of detail," said MRO and Curiosity scientist Sarah Milkovich.
"You can see a lot of dark regions around the different components where when they came in, they disturbed the bright dust and exposed a darker surface underneath," she told BBC News.
This is most evident at the crash site of the skycrane, which clearly kicked up a shower of dusty debris on impact that then fanned off to the northwest.
And by the rover itself, it is possible on the close-up view to see two darker lobes either side of the vehicle. These are the patches of ground that were disturbed by the rockets of the skycrane at the moment of touchdown.
To give a sense of scale, the distance from the rover to the heatshield is 1,200m; to the parachute and backshell, 615m; and to the skycrane, 650m.
MRO will get another picture of the landing site in five days' time but on that occasion it will be looking almost straight down instead of off to the side.
In this image, the team hope to get much better definition on the vehicle.
The main camera on the satellite - its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRise) - can achieve a resolution of 30cm/pixel, so it may even be possible to see the shadows the robot casts on the ground.
The geologists on the mission team have taken a keen interest in the landing site image for what it tells them about the nature of the rocks in the area.
It is apparent from the picture that there are three distinct zones of ground.
At top-right is an area that previous observations have revealed to have high thermal inertia - it stays warmer longer at night, for example - than the broad area off to the left that holds all of the landing components other than the heatshield.
The third zone at bottom-right seems to display more impact cratering, which is usually indicative of being an older surface.
Visiting the intersection of all three zones is now being considered as a possible science destination once the rover starts some serious driving in September.
A signal confirming the Curiosity rover (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, MSL) had landed on the Red Planet was received here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at 05:32 GMT; 06:32 BST on Monday (22:32 PDT Sunday).
The robot rover put down on the floor of a deep depression on Mars' equator known as Gale Crater.
The first hours on the surface have been spent checking out the health of the vehicle and retrieving some early engineering pictures that tell the mission team about the immediate vicinity where Curiosity landed.
Efforts are currently under way to deploy the vehicle's high-gain antenna (HGA), which would provide a direct-to-Earth link through which to pass data. At the moment, it is all being relayed back via MRO and Nasa's other Mars satellite, Odyssey.
The HGA task should have been completed on Sol 1 - the first full day of Martian surface operations - but the team is having to deal with a pointing error on the antenna. This should be fixed on Sol 2.
Also on Sol 2, a command will be sent to lift the rover's mast, which holds its navigation cameras and the ChemCam laser instrument that can determine the chemistry of rocks from a distance.
Perhaps one of the best pictures returned from the rover so far is the test shot from Mahli - the Mars Hand Lens Imager.
This camera is mounted on the rover's tool-bearing turret at the end of its robotic arm.
The picture, which was released early on Tuesday, gives us a real sense of being on Mars.
You can see some rocks in the near-field and the rim of Gale crater in the far-field.
It looks hazy simply because the transparent dust cover was left in place when the shot was taken, but the camera team says the image tells them the Mahli is in great shape.
"If it did not have dust on it, you would not know it had dust on it," explained Ken Edgett, the camera's principal investigator.
"The purpose of the first picture? We haven't used the camera and its focus mechanism since July last year [before we launched from Earth]. It was to check the instrument was working properly - and it is," he told BBC News.
Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Nasa's Curiosity rover pictured on Mars by MRO satellite. [Online] (Updated 07 Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1445025-Nasas-Curiosity-rover-pictured-on-Mars-by-MRO-satellite [Accessed 19th June 2013]
At 15:51:25 in OtherMoors Murderer Ian Brady remains "chronically psychotic", the expert in charge of his case at the high-security Ashworth Hospital ...
At 14:27:05 in OtherA man has been arrested on suspicion of rape after a 13-year-old girl was attacked on her way to school in Greater Manchester....
At 13:51:04 in OtherA man jailed for a stabbing murder was convicted on "faulty" identification evidence, the Court of Appeal heard....
At 13:35:57 in BusinessIn much of the UK many young people have no prospect of getting on the property ladder. So how can they prepare for decades of renting?...
At 12:10:02 in OtherThe barracks that housed troops responsible for the Peterloo Massacre are to be excavated by archaeologists....
At 12:00:27 in OtherA Gilbert and Sullivan festival that draws thousands of visitors every summer is moving away from Derbyshire....
At 10:52:25 in OtherThe families of soldiers killed in Iraq can pursue damages against the government under the Human Rights Act, the Supreme Court has ruled....
At 07:44:02 in OtherSome breast cancer sufferers could be treated with radiotherapy instead of more invasive surgery after a Europe-wide study....
At 06:12:16 in OtherPeople living in London's East Ham are more likely to be the victims of identity fraud than anyone else in the UK, figures suggest. ...
At 01:52:36 in HeadlinesSupreme Court judges will rule later on whether relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq can sue the government for damages under the Human Righ...
News In Other Categories
Mars' atmosphere could have been rich in oxygen four billion years ago - well before Earth's air became augmented with the gas....
A US games publisher is attempting to sell a smart-device video game at a significantly higher price than consumers have become accustomed t...
Sally Gardner, a dyslexic author once branded "unteachable" at school, has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for her book Maggot ...
The first public hearings of the historical institutional abuse inquiry should begin in January 2014, the inquiry chairman has told a Northe...
UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is to launch an investigation into BSkyB over the supply of its sports channels to rival broadcasters....
Two workers at a care home in Buckinghamshire asked for forgiveness after being caught sleeping during their night shift, a court has heard....