“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain.”
The image was taken while MRO was 211 miles (340 kilometers) away from the parachuting rover. Curiosity and its rocket-propelled backpack, contained within the conical-shaped back shell, had yet to be deployed. At the time, Curiosity was about two miles (three kilometers) above the Martian surface.
It was typical of the last couple of days that I turned on the TV Monday to see if the Curiosity landing was successful and was immediately interrupted. I at least got to see the JPL folks jumping up and down.
Speaking of JPL, the original wheels for Curiosity had the letters “JPL” embossed on them. Someone griped about it, so they changed the design to Morse Code. Clever.