A Stunning High-Resolution Photo of Curiosity's Heat Shield Plummeting to the Martian Surface

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The first high-res image we've seen of the Curiosity rover's descent. Just look at it.

heatshield_huge.png

What can you really say about this image from Mars? Nothing.

But I'll try. The best images are when human artifacts are presented against the Martian landscape. What's fascinating is that it's *our* technology that looks alien, not the empty world to which we've sent it. 

Here's the image's context: as the Rover descended to Mars, it jettisoned its heat shield, which fell to the Martian surface. As it went, the Rover took images with the Mars Descent Imager, known as MARDI. A few of these photographs have been released by NASA, but the bandwidth to Mars is rather limited, so we hadn't seen a single full-resolution frame from that camera. Until now. Because that's what you're looking at. Click on the photo to enlarge it and just pan around a little.

Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has a few more details and cleaned up the image above a tiny bit.

Update, 1:56pm: NASA's put out a full-resolution close-up of the heat shield. Behold!

heatshield_fullfull.jpg


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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