By Laura Shin
Posting in Energy
Completing one of the most complicated maneuvers in the history of robotic spaceflight, the newest Mars Rover, Curiosity, touched down at 1:32am EDT.
At 1:32am EDT, NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity, completed one of the most complicated maneuvers in robotic spaceflight to end its almost nine-month trip, successfully landing in the Red Planet's Gale Crater.
The rover's next quest? To find out if Mars has ever been hospitable to microbial life. (Read more about its mission here.)
First, it began sending back images of Mars (view the photo gallery here), with its wheels firmly on the rocky surface. (See bottom right in the photo above.) It also began tweeting cheekily about its triumph.
"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. 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," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
"This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."
President Obama also tweeted his congratulations.
A complicated landing and a sweet triumph
The car-sized rover carries 10 science instruments whose total mass is 15 times those of the science instruments on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
For that reason, it was too big to land with cushions the way previous Mars landers had done. Instead, Curiosity had to land, the Wall Street Journal reports, "through an innovative—and untested—automated system of high-speed maneuvers, a supersonic parachute, eight retro-rockets, and a set of tethers to lower the robot vehicle the last few feet to the ground."
The actual landing was the dress rehearsal and the performance all in one.
At pretty much the exact moment of the scheduled touch down, cheers, whoops and applause rang through the control rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The control room had heard the electronic "heart-beat" tones relayed from the Curiosity that indicated a successful landing.
Within hours, this victorious image was on the internet:
And the landing was celebrated in other ways:
The landing was validation for NASA, which spent $2.5 billion on the ambitious mission. Curiosity will collect data that will help NASA shape future missions to Mars. Read more about NASA's mission below, and see photos of the landing in the photo gallery:
- The mission of NASA's latest Mars rover, Curiosity
- Curiosity lands on Mars! (photos)
- Watch video footage of Curiosity's final descent to Mars
- What Curiosity's been seeing on Mars (photos)
- Curiosity's first high-res, color, panoramic images from Mars! (photos)
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Mars rover Curiosity powered by nuclear energy
- Looking for the origins of the universe? Head to Chile
- Looking for the origins of the universe in one of Earth's least habitable places (photos)
- How scientists concluded there is water on Mars
- China ramps up space exploration as U.S. program shrinks
- Getting closer and closer to finding an Earth-like planet
- Galaxy has at least 100 billion planets, says new estimate
- SpaceX makes history with commercial space flight
- The historic SpaceX shuttle launch (photos)
photo: top: NASA/JPL-Caltech; bottom: Upworthy
Aug 5, 2012
Do a search on Smart planet. type in "Blink, itâs gone: Greenlandâs surface ice melted two weeks ago"
Sincerely, this is a remarkable accomplishment and Congratulations to all. Come on, $2.5 Billion Dollars to explore a planet 8 months away from earth. I believe the money would be well spent advancing technology to protect our own natural resources and life here on earth vs. looking for life elsewhere. For the first time in history did anyone notice that Greenlandâs Ice cap is gone; we should have sent the rover there to look for life. Wonât be long before we can get the same dust bowl photos here on earth.
I congatulate everyone who was conected with the sucess of this program and they certainly should celebrate. Obama had very little if anything to do with this milestone. I don't believe a socialist should be given credit.
CONGRATULATIONS .ANOTHER GREAT SUCCESS BY NASA.WE WILL SEE SOMETHING NEW EXPLORATION THROUGH CURIOSITY ROVER AT OUR PLANET. NASA 'S engineers made a safe landing on MarsThe car-sized rover carries 10 science instruments whose total mass is 15 times those of the science instruments on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.âThis is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030âs, and todayâs landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.â(AS MENTIONED IN NEWS) - BY RKS
This is amazing news. This landing was a technical difficulty of at least...a 20. And it went off flawlessly (or flawlessly enough!)
I am so proud to hear our engineers at NASA made a safe landing on Mars. I hope the mission is a complete success
...which will tell you that this happens roughly every 150 years, and then the ice comes back. [i]NASA glaciologist Lora Koenig notes that Greenland experiences such melting events, âAbout once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time.[/i]
Are you talking about the same President Obama who defunded and ended NASA? The current Mars Rover mission is the last one we will have at least until he is out of office. The President has NO vision for NASA or space or Mars for the forseeable future, much less 15 years from now!
John, you are right and kbartleson is wrong in that it was only the surface layer of an ice sheet over 2 km thick that melted. But saying the cycle of these melts is 150 years is kind of misleading. The gap between the 1889 event and the one prior to it was 700 years. These surface melt events were concentrated in the first half of the Holocene and have been relatively rare during the last 1000 years. This graph: http://www.gisp2.sr.unh.edu/DATA/alley1.html shows there have been only 6 events in the last 2000 years, an average of every 300 years and 3 of the events were concentrated during the MWP. The frequency of the events in the early Holocene is probably due to orbital variations that don't exist today.
that you didn't come up with the 150 year figure but repeating it is still misleading. Did you check out the graph I cited? Notice that the Greenland surface melt events are concentrated in the period from 4,000 to 8,000 years ago and particularly from 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Also not in the graph below the main one how much higher July insolation was back then.
...but the fact remains that it is an observed cycle. At some point it melts, and at some point it accumulates.