NASA solves mystery of photo taken by Curiosity Mars robot

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NASA identified the mysterious stain that appeared in a photo sent by the robot Curiosity soon after landing on Mars, concluding that it was the impact on the soil of the ship that transported the vehicle. Since Monday, the photo intrigued scientists and astronomy enthusiasts and beginning to be a matter of speculation.

Everyone wondered about the small patch, similar to a dust cloud, which appeared on the horizon Martian in a photo sent by Curiosity soon after landing on Mars, at 5:31 a.m. GMT on Monday (2:31 a.m., GMT).

On Friday, during a press conference held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, its acronym in English) of NASA in Pasadena (California, west), which controls the mission of Curiosity, one of the scientists ensured that the cloud was not a spot on the camera lens or a cloud of dust, as some observers risked. It was said, the impact on the soil of “boom” that had just put the Curiosity Mars.

“We have two pictures of two different cameras where the cloud appears, taken 40 seconds after landing,” he told AFP Steve Sell, heads a team of EDL (abbreviation for atmospheric entry, descent and landing of Curiosity) during a press conference.

“And in each of the cameras, 40 minutes later, the stain no longer appears,” he said, adding that the two cameras pointed in the “exact direction” from the point of drop ship carrier, spotted in photos taken by U.S. satellites in orbit around Mars.

Given that NASA engineers had no way to predict the exact location nor the axis on which the robot would land, have an overview of the impact of the crane is “a wonderful coincidence,” he said Sell. The ship’s crane carrier equipped with retrorockets, had the difficult task of landing gently Curiosity on the Martian surface using long nylon cords. Separated from the robot to meet the goal and fell to a safe distance. “He hit the ground very strong, at a speed of 160,160 km / h,” said Sell.

The photo itself has no scientific value, Sell admitted, but “interesting for the engineers.” It also shows that “our projections (on the ejection of the craft carrier) were correct and that we develop our models as well,” he said.

On Friday, the team of scientists from EDL updated information about Curiosity. Thus, said the exact time of arrival at 05H31 GMT (5:32 a.m. and not to as it had been announced shortly after the arrival of the robot), and the place where it landed.

The Curiosity touched down to “2.25 km of the site provided a little farther east, in fact very close,” he told AFP Mendeck Gavin, another scientist in charge. The team is currently working in the EDL of the data sent by the robot, retrieving a total of 100 megabytes, “a treasure,” according Mendeck.

“When we received the data in a couple of weeks, we will take months to study them,” he added. The Curiosity landed successfully on Mars on Monday, after more than eight months of space travel. During his mission of at least two years duration, this mobile laboratory will be devoted to seek traces of past life on Mars.

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