A series of recently released images from Mars orbit show breezes buffeting the Mars Science Laboratory's spent parachute. That's the same parachute that helped the Curiosity rover land safely on the red planet's surface on August 6th of last year. When fully unfurled during descent, the parachute measured 51 feet in diameter, making it the largest parachute of its kind. Its like a giant, Martian version of the plastic bag from American Beauty.
Fast forward a few months and the parachute is paying surprise dividends. Acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera — or HiRISE for short — this series of images was shot between last August and this January, and shows the parachute changing position as the Martian wind pushes it around. Also visible in the upper right of each image is the Mars Science Laboratory's back shell. The parachute is still tethered to the shell, as it was during descent. And that's what has made all of this mesmorizing imagery possible. Without those tethers, who knows where the parachute could be by now.