NASA orbiter spies Curiosity exploring Mars

A NASA Mars orbiter is keeping tabs on the Curiosity rover.

In June, a camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a photo of the Red Planet from above. If you look closely, the 1-ton rover appears as a tiny dot in the lower right corner of the image.

The rover landed last August and is now traveling toward Mount Sharp, a mountain in the middle of an ancient crater that is the main science target of the mission. The color-enhanced photo from the orbiter shows Curiosity exploring a rock outcrop called Shaler in a region the rover has called home for most of this year.

The photo also reveals the site where Curiosity landed, which scientists named Bradbury Landing after “The Martian Chronicles” author Ray Bradbury. The rover landed with the help of a rocket-powered “backpack,” which slowed the speed of the spacecraft. The area where the rockets pushed aside Martian dust is shown in the image as two bright blue dots.

-- Tiffany Kelly,

Follow me on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.


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