“This is like the crime scene photo here,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist during a NASA press conference Aug. 7.
Zooming in close, black streaks can be seen where the rover’s rockets disturbed bright surface dust, revealing darker soil underneath. Researchers have used these streak patterns to infer Curiosity’s orientation, which matches up nicely with information from the rover’s first pictures on the surface.
Down and to the right is the rover’s heat shield, which protected the probe as it plummeted through the Martian atmosphere. It is sitting about 4000 feet from Curiosity on the surface. The backshell and parachute — over to the lower left in the image — sit about 2000 feet from the rover while the sky crane, which gently lowered the rover to the ground, is above and to the left about 2100 feet from Curiosity. NASA engineers will continue poring over the photo for clues of exactly how Curiosity’s complex landing sequence unfolded.