Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curiosity: Where It Is...

The photo at right (or here in even larger form) shows a simulated 3D view of Gale Crater on Mars, using photos taken from orbit.

If you look at the enlarged photograph, you can see a faint blue ellipse (just below the center of the photo) with a green dot in it.  The ellipse shows the targeted landing area, and the green dot is where Curiosity actually is – very close to the center of the ellipse.

To anyone familiar with the history of robotic spacecraft, this is stunningly accurate placement.  The first such spacecraft in my own memory (in the '60s) were aimed at our moon – and not infrequently, they completely missed it!  There's been steady improvement in the 50 years since then, to the point now where we're plopping a car-sized rover down on Mars just a few meters off its bull's-eye.  Awesome!

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