Back in August of 2012, NASA successfully landed the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. The massive rover had a highly complicated system designed to bring it safely to ground inside Gale Crater. One of the primary devices used to slow the Curiosity rover’s decent to the surface of Mars was a gigantic parachute.
The giant parachute use by Curiosity was 51-feet in diameter and once Curiosity was on the ground the parachute ended up about 673 yards away from the rover. Curiosity has been taking photographs of all sorts of things on the surface of Mars ever since it landed, including its own litter. We’ve always known that Mars has an atmosphere, but that atmosphere is significantly thinner than the atmosphere on Earth.
This is why Curiosity required such a large parachute to slow its fall towards the surface of Mars. Recently, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been taking some interesting photographs of the parachute lying on the surface of Mars. Photographs released by NASA recently show the parachute over the course of five months. The photograph showed that between September 8, 2012 and November 30, 2012 there was some sort of major change that moved the parachute extension from the southeast inward.
Scientists also noted during the same time interval that some “dark ejecta” around the backshell that brightened indicating the deposition of airborne dust. Another significant wind event on the surface of Mars again changed how the massive parachute was laying between December 16, 2012 and January 13 of 2013. This wind event shifted the parachute to the southeast. The scientists say that while seeing the parachute move is a minor curiosity, these windy flapping events could help explain why parachutes on the surface of Mars from the Viking Landers, which landed 1976, are still visible. These wind events help to dust off the bright parachute material.