'Curiosity' Lands on Mars
Created: 2012-08-06 13:41 EST
“Touchdown confirmed, we’re safe on Mars.”
Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, California, erupted in cheers, when NASA’s Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars at 10:32pm PDT.
The announcement signalled the completion of a 36-week, 352 million mile journey. Starting at the foot of a Martian mountain inside Gale Crater, the car-sized robot will begin its investigation, potentially determining if our neighboring planet ever harbored life.
The applause continued as the first images from Curiosity made its way on-screen.
It takes fourteen minutes for a radio signal travelling the speed of light to reach Earth. When the news that the Mars Science Laboratory (MPL) spacecraft, which carried Curiosity, had begun entry into the Martian atmosphere, it would still take seven minutes for the MPL to complete a complex landing sequence. However, by that point, the rover’s fate had already been decided, having potentially landed seven minutes ago. NASA had dubbed this time the “7 Minutes of Terror.”
Fortunately, the sequence, which in its final phase had Curiosity lowered from a floating sky crane, was successful.
The $2.5 billion project is scheduled to go on for two years, determining if Mars ever hosted, or if it ever could host life.