Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Snaps Spectacular Pic of MSL's Descent

This has to be one of the most incredible space images ever taken

1 min read
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Snaps Spectacular Pic of MSL's Descent

This image, revealed at the 9AM post-landing press conference at JPL, has to be one of the most spectacular space pictures ever taken, ever. It was captured last night by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and unveiled by Sarah Milkovich, investigation scientist with MRO's HiRISE camera. It shows MSL about six minutes into its descent, heading towards the surface at Gale Crater. Wow.

Here's the full-res version:

Below is a stretched closeup of MSL; you can very clearly see the band gap in the parachute as well as the hole in the center. The resolution is about 33 centimeters per pixel, and MRO was 340 kilometers away (almost directly above MSL) when this was taken. MRO captured the image about six minutes into the EDL phase, which was one minute from landing. The backshell is obviously still on, but they're not quite sure whether the heat shield has been dropped or not at this point.

HiRISE will be making another high-quality pass in about six days, at which point the spacecraft should have a good chance of getting a pic of Curiosity on the surface.

[ HiRISE ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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