An Interplanetary First

What do you see in this picture?

No, it’s not a diamond ring sticking up out of the sand. It’s a picture of the Phoenix Mars Lander and its parachute, during its descent to the Martian surface on Sunday evening. The shot was taken by a high resolution camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, orbiting high above Mars.

The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars.

This technology is so cool — when it works. When it doesn’t, we get some pretty embarrassing failures, like these.

(On a personal note: One of my sons is a system administrator for the web hosting service that hosts the nasa.gov web site, including pictures like the one above.)

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