Stunning High Res Shots of Phoenix Lander

Illustration for article titled Stunning High Res Shots of Phoenix Lander

The space blogosphere is rightfully abuzz over some jaw-dropping images the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera has taken of the Phoenix Lander parachuting down to Mars (pictured) and then resting safely on the Martian surface along with its parachute and heat shield nearby (below).


As Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait put it, the parachuting shot is "the first action shot" of a man-made machine landing on the surface of another planet. Very cool. This one's not bad either:

Illustration for article titled Stunning High Res Shots of Phoenix Lander

(click here for the full size shot from HiRISE)

The HiRISE camera has clearly been earning its money up there in Martian orbit, and has long since jumped ahead of the-great-and-powerful Google, whose Google Mars rainbow-colored elevation map of the Red Planet is a distant second to these awesome shots. I think the two should join forces for what could be a truly kick-ass mashup, with HiRISE imaging points of awesomeness like Olympus Mons, Vallis Marineris and the Viking I lander site, and GMars crunching the data and letting us users zoom in and do custom flybys.

Source: HiRISE via Bad Astronomy and The Planetary Society



What's particularly amazing about this shot is the luck of it. The Phoenix lander touched down at the edge of it's three-sigma landing ellipse due to variations in the Martian atmosphere from the model predictions. That the MRO camera was able to catch it on approach was serendipity of the highest factor.