NASA scientists have confirmed that the Mars rover did indeed catch its own crash-landing on the red planet. When the discovery was first made analysts believed the capture was a statistical impossibility however NASA officials conducted a thorough review of landing data and confirmed the photographic evidence.
In order to complete its complex landing the Curiosity rover was lowered by a “sky crane” a system that included three ropes that lowered the rover to the ground. After the ropes were cut the descending spacecraft then crash landed on purpose nearly 2,000 feet away from the Curiosity rover.
On Sunday night a low-resolution photograph was received by La Cañada Flintridge’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The photograph in question featured a blotch on the horizon, a blotch that disappeared 45 minutes later on the same camera.
The Curiosity rover only had its camera lens open for 200 milliseconds which meant catching the crash landing was nearly impossible and as one engineer called it “insane.”
The spacecraft traveled for approximately 20 seconds after Curiosity landed and crashed at speeds up to 100 mph.
The rovers photo came 40 seconds after the landing and shows a large plume of Martian soil. Scientists believe the plume hovered because Mars’s gravity is 38% as strong as that on Earth.
Some analysts believed dirt on the camera lens led to the photograph but NASA scientists quickly pointed out that the original photo was taking in stereo, a process that includes side-by-side lenses with both lenses picking up the same blotch.
During the discussion NASA scientists also announced that Curiosity landed just 1.5 miles away from its expected touchdown zone. Scientists had hopes to land within 12 miles of their goal.