NASA Curiosity Rover Successfully Lands on Mars
Image of the Curiosity rover and its parachute captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite as the rover descends to Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Composite image of NASA's Curiosity, which is approximately twice as long and five times as heavy as previous Mars exploration rovers.
August 6, 2012 - NASA's most advanced, 1-ton rover, Curiosity, touched down on Mars on Sunday at 10:32 p.m. PDT, concluding a 36-week flight and kicking off a two-year investigation of the planet's conditions for microbial life.
"The wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars," commented NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars - or if the planet can sustain life in the future."
Confirmation of Curiosity's successful landing came in communications relayed by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, and was received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA's Deep Space Network.
The Mars exploration mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which also designed, developed, and assembled Curiosity.
The rover carries 10 analytical science instruments and weighs 15 times more than previous models. It was carried to Mars by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and placed inside Gale Crater in the most complex Mars landing ever attempted.
"The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives," said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger.
This particular landing site puts Curiosity within driving distance of the crater's interior layers where earlier observations have revealed possible water on the planet.
Curiosity's first relayed image after landing was a wide-angle shot of the rocky ground before it. More images are anticipated in the days to come as the rover observes the landing site and prepares for its exploratory mission.