[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGMDXy-Y1I&w=640&h=360]

To round out your Monday evening, we leave you with this, a brief, grainy, but exciting video from NASA’s Curiosity rover mission to Mars.

This clip, which was just tweeted out by NASA, is the first video that shows Curiosity’s actual descent from onboard cameras — not a simulation, and not images from other spacecraft.

The low-resolution video is a stop-motion clip shot at four frames per second by the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), which was designed to help the rover/science laboratory land safely on the red planet’s surface.

The clip shows the last two minutes or so of the descent, from the point at which the heatshield separated until the rover was on the ground.

While other visualizations floating around YouTube are glossier, they’re about as real as anything you’d see in a special effects-laden Hollywood blockbuster. What we cherish about this imperfect clip is that it’s absolutely the real deal — the NASA equivalent of a crappy home movie showing a meaningful and amazing moment in space exploration history.

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