"If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape...When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain."
-- Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
Remarkable feat by NASA Engineers and their contractors. At times Software Engineering is buggy and it results in some embarrassments. But if one exerts emphasis on 'quality', you can achieve phenomenal things; that is what this NASA achievement shows. Of course, in this case it is not just Software Engineering; as the major contribution is from Space and Aviation Technologies. These are all 'multidisciplinary' efforts in the end. Chemical and Geological breakthroughs would start flowing with this powerful laboratory on the Martian grounds.
Somewhere I am thinking, NASA is slowly assembling a blueprint of investigating 'distant planets with atmosphere' in all these magnificent Mars expeditions. Meanwhile, expensive follies like 'human space' travel are taking a backseat and NASA may be turning a corner towards more practical and hard science oriented projects. That is all good and fabulous return on investment for tax dollars dedicated for Science and Technology.