Discuss as:

Watch the rover fall to Mars ... in HD!

This is a full-resolution version of the Curiosity rover's descent to Mars, taken by the MARDI camera.


You've seen it before, but not like this: Visual-effects specialist Daniel Luke Fitch has assembled the high-resolution imagery showing the Curiosity rover's descent to Mars this month into a YouTube video that's as slick as his highlights reel.

The video takes advantage of pictures captured by the Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, which is positioned on the bottom of the rover. During the "seven minutes of terror" leading up to Curiosity's landing on Aug. 5, MARDI recorded hundreds of still frames and stored them in the rover's memory. Thumbnail versions of the pictures were quickly sent back to Earth and turned into a low-resolution movie, but it's taken days to reserve the bandwidth required for transmitting the full-resolution frames.

"As of August 20, all but a dozen 1600x1200 frames have been uploaded from the rover, and those missing were interpolated using thumbnail data," Fitch writes. "The result was applied a heavy noise reduction, color balance and sharpening for best visibility."

The 50-second video you see here runs at triple the real-time frame rate. The clip starts with the Mars Science Laboratory's heat shield falling away over Gale Crater and its dark sand dunes. The picture rocks back and forth because the spacecraft is dangling at the end of a parachute, but you can still easily make out the small craters and surface variations in the Martian soil.


Toward the end of the ride, dust is kicked up by the blast from the sky-crane descent stage's rocket thrusters, a rover wheel flips into view in the lower right corner of the frame, and the picture goes dark as the rover is lowered to the surface. As a coda, the video traces the fall of the heat shield all the way down to where it goes "splat" on the surface.

Be sure to watch the video at full screen and highest resolution.

More visuals from Mars:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.