This picture was made by the Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on 6 August. The image was taken by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 4.5-meter diameter heat shield when it was about 16 meters from the spacecraft about two and one-half minutes before touch down on Mars and roughly three seconds after heat shield separation. The resolution of all of the MARDI frames was reduced by a factor of eight in order for them to be rapidly transmitted to Earth during the early phase of the mission. Full resolution (1,600 by 1,200 pixel) images will be returned to Earth over the next few months. This picture appears pinched at the edges because it has been geometrically corrected to look flat.
Image Credit: NASA