Engineers try to explain mysterious image in photo from Mars rover
2012-08-09 0:00


A photo of Mars taken by Curiosity shows what might be the NASA roverís spacecraft crash-landing in the distance. If so, it íwould be an insane coincidence,í one engineer says.

Did Curiosity capture the galactic equivalent of the Zapruder film when it landed on Mars?

Seconds after the NASA robotís landing Sunday night, Curiosity managed to squeeze off a handful of fuzzy, black-and-white photographs. One, taken with a device on its rear known as a Hazcam, captured the pebble-strewn ground beneath the rover and one of its wheels ó and a blotch, faint but distinctive, on the horizon.

The images were relayed by a passing satellite. Two hours later, the satellite passed overhead again. This time, Curiosity sent home a new batch of higher-resolution photos. They showed the same horizon.

The blotch was gone.

One of the first images taken by NASAís Curiosity rover: Visible in the centre of the picture on the horizon is an unexplained shape. Original image as provided by NASA.

Space junkies raced onto the Internet with giddy speculation about the difference between the photos.

Curiosity, the largest spacecraft ever sent to another planet, had just sailed through deep space for almost nine months and more than 350 million miles. It landed on its own, meaning scientists had no control over where, exactly, it would wind up, what direction it would be pointed in or when it would snap its first images.

After all of those variables, the space junkies insisted, Curiosity had somehow snapped a photo of its chariot crash-landing a safe distance away, as planned. The camera shutter had been open for 200 milliseconds.

The blotch did look like a billowing plume of some sort, erupting from the horizon. But the image "would be an insane coincidence," one engineer said. Most dismissed the chatter as wild-eyed speculation and a statistical impossibility. It was just dirt on the lens, some said ó maybe a dust devil swirling in the distance, but nothing more than that.

Yet a pesky fact remained. In the first photo, the blotch is there. "And then itís not," said Sarah Milkovich, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La CaŮada Flintridge and a leader of the team responsible for delivering images documenting the mission.

Early Tuesday morning, JPL engineers received a new image of the landing zone, taken by another satellite. With tongue in cheek, this photo was labeled the "crime scene" photo, because it not only showed Curiosity on the ground, but all of the pieces of the spacecraft that the rover had discarded on the way down.

View of the Martian surface made up of two images from the navigation cameras on the mast of NASAís Curiosity rover in Mars

To the southwest was the supersonic parachute that had taken Curiosity out of free-fall, and was then jettisoned so it wouldnít land on top of the rover and smother it.

To the southeast was the heat shield, which soared to temperatures as high as 3,800 degrees and was then ditched so that Curiosity could turn on its radar to navigate its landing.

And to the northwest was the spacecraft that had deposited Curiosity on the surface. Known as the "sky crane," it was the remnants of the final stage of the roverís intricate descent.

Minutes before landing, Curiosity had been contained in an experimental "backpack" that lowered itself to the ground using powerful rocket engines. The engines could have kicked up so much dust that it suffocated the rover. So, just 66 feet above the ground, the backpack spat out Curiosity, leaving the rover dangling by three ropes.

The hovering spacecraft lowered Curiosity to the ground and was then cut loose. Once free, the crane throttled up its engines and arched across the Martian sky.

The crime scene photo showed that the sky crane had crash-landed, as designed, about 2,000 feet away ó and in the direction Curiosityís rear was pointed toward when it snapped the first photo showing the blotch. The new photo also showed that the sky crane, when it crash-landed, kicked up a violent wave of dirt that had scarred the surface of Mars.

The impossible, it seemed, was possible.

"I donít think you can rule it out," Curiosity mission manager Michael Watkins said Tuesday. "It bears looking into."

Though the coincidence would be of little scientific value, "it would be incredibly cool. ... A crazy, serendipitous thing," Watkins said.

Justin Maki, a JPL engineer and scientist who led the team that developed the Hazcams, shorthand for hazard-avoidance cameras, said further review had suggested that the photograph might not be as crazy as it sounded initially. Between the front and rear Hazcams, the cameras covered 240 degrees of the horizon, or about two-thirds. And the material the sky crane kicked up when it crashed could have hung in the air for a minute or two, he said ó Marsí gravity is 38% as strong as Earthís ó which could have increased the chances of capturing the image.

"Something was out there," he said.


Read the full article at:

Also tune into Red Ice Radio:

George J. Haas & William R. Saunders - The Martian Codex

Andrew D. Basiago - Teleportation Trip to Mars & Life on Mars - Two Parts

Alfred Webre - Mars and Moon Bases, Time Travel, Teleportation, Aliens & Genetic Alteration

Alfred Webre - Exopolitics, NASA Bombing of the Moon, Outer Space Treaty & E.T.

Peter Levenda - Secret Space Program & NASAís Nazis

Ted Twietmeyer - What NASA isnít Telling you about Mars

Mike Bara - Dark Mission, The Occult NASA Moon Mission

Richard Dolan - The Secret Space Program & Breakaway Civilization

Related Articles
Mars ĎCuriosityí stuns scientists, stirs speculation
Wooden Plank Found on Mars?
Man will walk on Mars within a generation, claims Astronomer Royal
NASAís íCuriosityí Rover isnít powered by solar - itís nuclear!
Curiosity lands on Mars

Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden to give over 8 million euros to Turkey for "refugee deal" - Europe to give three billion euros total
2015-12-01 1:44
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on Sunday that Sweden would contribute to a joint action plan agreed by nine EU nations designed to limit the number of refugees arriving in Europe via Turkey. The deal came after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a surprise summit in Brussels involving the leaders of nine countries including Sweden, France and the UK. The European ...
Swedish woman raped by "refugee" refuses to report it because she feels sorry for him
2015-12-01 0:12
Victim sympathized with rapist's "difficult situation" A Swedish woman who was raped by an Iraqi ‚Äúrefugee‚ÄĚ on a train initially refused to report the incident to police because she ‚Äėfelt sorry‚Äô for her attacker. The incident occurred on a night train between Ume√• and Sundsvall back in October. The Iraqi refugee was traveling back to Sweden because he was unhappy with the ...
ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: "Raqqa's Rockefellers," Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection
2015-11-30 21:56
"Effectively, we have been financially discriminated against for a long time. By early 2014, when we did not receive the budget, we decided we need to start thinking about independent oil sales‚ÄĚ --  Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan‚Äôs minister for natural resources In June of 2014, the SCF Altai (an oil tanker) arrived at Ashkelon port. Hours later, the first shipment of Kurdish ...
Prosecutors ban Soros Foundation as 'threat to Russian national security'
2015-11-30 21:04
The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has recognized George Soros’s Open Society Institute and another affiliated organization as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects. In a statement released on Monday, prosecutors said the activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation were a threat to the foundations of Russia’s ...
Israeli Colonel Caught with Islamic State (IS) Pants Down
2015-11-30 21:11
This was definitely not supposed to happen. It seems that an Israeli military man with the rank of colonel was ‚Äúcaught with IS pants down.‚ÄĚ By that I mean he was captured amid a gaggle of so-called IS‚Äďor Islamic State or ISIS or DAESH depending on your preference‚Äďterrorists, by soldiers of the Iraqi army. Under interrogation by the Iraqi intelligence ...
More News »