Mars flying saucer is Curiosity’s heat shield
NASA released a spectacular new photo of a “flying saucer” over Mars today. The circular object is really a new high-resolution view of the Curiosity rover’s heat shield falling away as the craft descended through the martian atmosphere.
The picture was taken about three seconds after the 4.5-metre diameter shield had been ejected and two and a half minutes before landing when the shield was about 16 metres away. It was taken with the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI.
The picture shows the inside surface of the heat shield, with its protective multi-layered insulation. It is such a detailed image that the stitching can be seen in the shield’s thermal insulation. Space scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California are delighted with the quality of the site where their $2.5 billion runabout touched down on Monday.
A high-resolution image of Curiosity’s heat shield falling away during the rover’s descent.
Image credit: NASA
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