An image that has to be seen to be believed…

I’ve spent a good part of today marvelling at this image (below) from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). I simply can’t take my eyes off it. It’s just stunning. Two nights ago NASA’s Mars Phoenix lander tore through the martian atmosphere on its way to the northern plains of Mars. As it unfurled its parachute it descended down to the surface a tremendous speeds. At the same time MRO was orbiting above relaying the signal from Phoenix to teams on Earth. Luckily its camera was also pointing in the direction of Phoenix and in one of the most remarkable, stunning [insert more superlatives here] images I have ever seen, the MRO team snapped this picture; Phoenix encased in its backshell, with parachute billowing above it, as it fell to the surface. You can even see the thin tethers that are connecting the parachute to the lander! Phil has a great video on his site here which sums up brilliantly what a lot of us are feeling about this image right now.

Phoenix with parachute on its way down to the surface.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The MRO team also released this image this evening, during the last press conference, (small version below) of Phoenix on the surface with its solar panels outstretched and gathering the sullen Arctic sunlight. Click on the image (below) to go to a larger labelled image, showing the position of the parachute and backshell. If this and all the other images, so far sent back, are a taster of things to come then this is going to be an incredible 90 days with Phoenix and its friends, at Mars.

Phoenix on the surface from MRO.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

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