Did Curiosity capture the galactic equivalent of the Zapruder film when it landed on Mars?
Seconds after the NASA robot’s 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 — 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.
Tip: Steve Liberace
It looked like a plume but was it a cloud of dust, some dirt on the lens…or did it capture a serendipitous moment?
The “crime scene” photo showed that the sky crane had crash-landed, as designed, about 2,000 feet away — and in the direction Curiosity’s 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 don’t 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.
Whatever it is, it’s not worthy of some far-fetched theory. WE ARE ON MARS, sending back imagery (again, but still!), you crazy people. That is HUGE! Big YAY for NASA.
Dear Congress… more money for science!