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Orbiter spots wreckage impacts on Mars

Dec. 5, 2012 at 8:20 PM

PASADEAN, Calif., Dec. 5 (UPI) -- NASA says its Mars orbiting spacecraft has captured images of impact sites created by parts of the spacecraft that delivered the Curiosity rover to the planet.

When the NASA Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft entered the martian atmosphere Aug. 5 in the famous "7 minutes of terror," the final stage of the flight that put Curiosity on the Red Planet's surface, it shed its cruise stage used during the flight from Earth and also released two 165-pound blocks of tungsten to improve aerodynamic lift.

Plunging through the thin martian atmosphere, the cruise stage and tungsten blocks hit the surface about 50 miles west of where Curiosity put down.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment has captured images of the impact sites, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Wednesday.

While hundreds of cosmic impact sites have been imaged on Mars, because researchers know the initial size, velocity, density, strength, and impact angle of the cruise section and metal blocks, study of this impact field will help scientists understand provide impact processes and surface and atmospheric properties of the Red Planet, JPL said.

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