This sequence of images shows the heat shield from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory hitting the ground on Mars and raising a cloud of dust. The images were taken by the Mars Descent Imager on the mission's Curiosity rover while the rover was still suspended on a parachute, after the spacecraft had jettisoned the heat shield.
A dark spot, the shadow of the heat shield, enters the scene from lower left, moving toward the center. The bright heat shield itself is also apparent just before the shadow and hardware meet in the impact on the surface. The area of ground visible in the images is about six-tenths of a mile (1 kilometer) across. The frames shown here are cropped portions of full-frame images from the Mars Descent Imager.
The sequence includes 25 frames, repeated in five run-throughs for this presentation. The action is full speed in the first, fourth and fifth run-throughs. It is one-half and one-eighth speeds in the second and third run-throughs.
At the time the heat shield hit the ground, the spacecraft photographing it was nearly two miles (about 3,000 meters) above the ground and 68 seconds away from its own touchdown.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems