Film: The descent of the Mars rover

I guess my fascination with the Mars rover hasn’t yet abated.  Here’s a new film of the descent of the vehicle complex, showing the ejection of the heat shield and the landing.

The YouTube notes say this:

This is a full-resolution version of the NASA Curiosity rover descent to Mars, taken by the MARDI descent imager. As of August 20, all but a dozen 1600 x1200 frames have been uploaded from the rover, and those missing were interpolated using thumbnail data. The result was applied a heavy noise reduction, color balance, and sharpening for best visibility.

. . . The heat shield impacts in the lower left frame at 0:21, and is shown enlarged at the end of the video. Image source:

Scientific American adds this:

Visual effects dab-hand, Daniel Luke Fitch, has used the more recently available HD frames of the descent to make this jaw-dropping movie. As he explains, it runs at 15 frames a second, which represents a speed-up of real events by 3 times. So the actual descent was not quite as ferocious, but it was pretty darn close.

The fidelity is astonishing. Early on, at around the 2-3 second mark, and again at 0:08 you can see the diffuse glow of what I think must be atmospheric and dust reflection of sunlight. The final drop happens at around 0:33, it’s pretty messy, one can only presume that without the sky crane it would’ve been even more so.

For the feline perspective, click here.


  1. Donald L. Anderson
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Again, thank you for your website and your curiosity.

    I wouldn’t have seen this, if I didn’t get WEIT every day.

    It is much appreciated.

  2. JohnJay
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    One of most emotional videos of this I’ve seen is this one:

    It is in real-time with the simultaneous control room calls, computer animation, and actual descent images. It even includes the sky crane motor sound taken from a test in the lab.

  3. FastLane
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    You can tell in the video when the ‘chute releases and the rocket descent/skycrane take over. That’s the point when the video rather suddenly stabilizes (if you watch closely, you can see the slew maneuver to get the rover away from the falling ‘chute’).

    Very nice video. This sort of thing (the video) doesn’t really do much for the scientific advancement, but it really helps with the PR, which, hopefully, helps with funding later. (and my not-so-inner geek loves this stuff!)

  4. m janello
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    A great site for discussion of rover activity is here

    There are many contributors there with serious photomanipulation skills, making amazing stitched panoramas.

    A contributor there named “walfy” made this video version of the descent, which keeps the heat shield centered in the frame the entire time:

  5. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Very sad to learn that (Reuters report) Neil Armstrong had died.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] THIS IS SCIENCE! (via Why Evolution is True) […]

  2. […] This comes via Jerry Coyne, who has more detail. […]

%d bloggers like this: