Latest Mars rover pics show rocket impact

The distant blob seen in the view on left, taken by a Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity rover, may be a cloud created during the crash of the rover's descent stage. Pictures taken about 45 minutes later (right) do not show the cloud, providing further evidence it was from the crash. NASA/JPL-Caltech

(CBS/AP) - The latest photographs from Mars rover Curiosity provided, among other things, a minor mystery for the NASA operations team. What exactly is that strange cloud of dust in the distance?

A NASA engineer said Friday he's pretty sure a Curiosity rover camera caught the rocket stage crashing in the distance after it landed in Gale Crater Sunday night.

A grainy, black-and-white picture taken about 40 seconds after landing shows a plume of dust in the distance. It's not visible in a picture taken nearly an hour later.

Slideshow: Mars rover Curiosity: Images from the Red Planet

Curiosity touched down on Mars using a new landing technique. During the last few seconds, a rocket stage hovered and slowly lowered the six-wheel rover to the ground. The rocket stage then flew away and crashed.

Scorch marks left by Curiosity's landing rockets are clearly visible in the color image that also shows the rim of Gale Crater.
Scorch marks left by Curiosity's landing rockets are clearly visible in the color image that also shows the rim of Gale Crater.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

The landing rockets left visible marks on the Martian surface as the 1-ton rover touched ground. As the rover continues its post-landing evaluations and testing, more images of Mars - and Curiosity's impact on the planet - are being released.

This mosaic image shows part of the left side of NASA's Curiosity rover and two blast marks from the descent stage's rocket engines. The images that were used to make the mosaic were obtained by the rover's Navigation cameras
This mosaic image shows part of the left side of NASA's Curiosity rover and two blast marks from the descent stage's rocket engines. The images that were used to make the mosaic were obtained by the rover's Navigation cameras.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Engineers say a preliminary reconstruction of the landing reveals everything went according to plan.

  • Bailey Johnson

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