Martian rover’s parachute still flapping in the wind

The parachute that helped the Curiosity rover land safely on Mars Aug. 5 has been spotted flapping in the Martian winds.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, released a series of seven images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that show how the parachute has shifted positions on the ground over several months. The images were taken between Aug. 12, and Jan. 13.

The parachute is the largest ever used for a Mars landing with a diameter of 15 meters when fully open.

NASA scientists believe the movement of the parachute in the wind may knock off any dust that may have accumulated on it, keeping the parachute bright and visible. For example, the parachute that helped safely land Viking 1, which landed on Mars in 1976, still is visible.

According to NASA, the Viking probes clocked the Martian winds at up to 30 meters per second, strong enough to create massive dust storms that can cover much of the planet. However, more recent observations indicate fewer dust storms, which may show the winds on Mars are slowing. The planet is believed to be getting colder.

Curiosity landed on Mars on a mission to investigate whether the planet ever offered an environment that could have supported microbial life.

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