Remember this picture?
To my mind this is one of the most amazing images in the history of planetary exploration. It shows the Mars Phoenix lander descending under a parachute to the surface of Mars in 2008, and was taken from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The lander is actually much closer to the camera than the background crater, and landed nowhere near it.
When the Curiosity lander gets to Mars on the evening of August 5/6, planetary scientists will try to duplicate this feat. Here is a neat computer simulation showing the relative paths of the two spacecraft. MSL is the Mars Science Lander (Curiosity) and MRO is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
If you missed Emily Lakadawalla’s superb posts on how Curiosity’s mission planners hope to deliver her safely to the Martian surface, here are Parts 1, 2, and 3. I know I’ll be staying up that night awaiting the news from the fourth planet!