Curiosity rover's parachute picks up wind

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows wind-caused changes in the parachute that helped land the Curiosity rover on Aug.5. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / April 3, 2013)

The supersonic parachute that helped the NASA rover Curiosity land safely on Mars eight months ago has become part of an accidental science experiment.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped photos of the 100-pound parachute between August and January that show changes in its shape. Researchers believe this is evidence of wind blowing across the Martian atmosphere.

PHOTOS: Mars Science Laboratory's parachute flapping in the wind

The parachute was used to slow down the spacecraft holding Curiosity during a harrowing landing on Aug. 5. A photo of the parachute opening on Mars was sent back to Earth shortly after scientists confirmed the rover was alive and safe on the planet.

The new photos confirm that the parachute itself survived the landing and can withstand the Martian climate.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge manages both NASA Mars orbiters and the Curiosity rover.

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