I couldn’t believe it, myself, but this is a real picture.

Last night, Anne and I got to go to the Jet Propulsion Labratory to watch the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover. It was a powerful, emotional, inspiring experience.

When I think about how these scientists flew something the size of my car to another planet and landed it almost exactly where they wanted it to land, I feel very, very tiny indeed. 

This morning, I saw a picture on Tumblr that I was positive was a fake:

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from Curiosity.

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from Curiosity.

It turns out that it's not fake. It's Curiosity's descent to the Martian surface, photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

So let's think about this for a moment, okay? Not only did these humans successfully land a Mini Cooper on Mars, they timed everything out so that a satellite they already put into orbit around Mars could take pictures of it.

Gene Roddenberry always talked about how amazing humans were, because we could do amazing things when we worked together. 

He was right.

60 thoughts on “I couldn’t believe it, myself, but this is a real picture.”

  1. I’m guessing I didn’t see you because the science team wasn’t allowed in the same building with the entry, descent and landing team. We were all in a basement in an adjacent building. Not that I’m complaining because there was nothing like sharing such an emotional experience with so many colleagues and friends. You should know though, that you had a lot of fans in that basement across the street :)

  2. Has it occurred to anyone that NASA may have been able to similarly image a Shuttle during its flaming descent to Earth? Does anyone know the answer?

  3. I know how you feel Wil. I was at the JPL in 1989 when Voyager 2 had the flyby of Neptune, the feeling of how amazing it was to know how far away the craft was and sending back pictures.
    I am old enough to remember watching Neil Armstrong step off the lunar lander onto the surface of the moon and the feeling of how proud I was of what we accomplished.
    I also remember the hollow feeling of watching Apollo 17 Lunar ascent module leave the surface of the moon knowing we would not return for a long time.
    Then there is the amazing Space Shuttle, a marvel of engineering. I was fortunate enough to be stationed at Edwards AFB and watch the shuttle land and even listen in on the shuttle communications to landing.
    As has been said, “we live in an exciting time . . ”

  4. Meh. Wake me when we get to Europa.
    Seriously…what is even more exciting to me is how excited “the general public” is about space exploration at the moment. I hope this somehow translates into increased funding and public sentiment for scientific exploration.
    I hope the pictures beamed back over the duration of the mission are spectacular. I still have fond memories of PathfinderPr0n.
    And I seriously hope they DO send some sort of probe to explore Europa in my lifetime. Go on, “attempt a landing there”!!!

  5. Great to hear of NASA’s recent success, but disappointed that the next great manned project is the Mission to Mars. It’s an expensive project that will not show practical results for quite some time. The best next step for man is to build and maintain a base on the moon. This will allow for experimentation and give practical results that will allow a manned mission to mars to be a success. The moon is only a few days away and if there are any problems a rescue mission has a good chance at success. Mars is months away! If we succeed on the moon and learn how to really live on another planet then those lessons will be invaluable to the first manned mission to mars. Mankind must learn how to crawl before it tries to fly!

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