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NASA Celebrates Mars Rover Landing

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Suzanne Presto
The mood at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission control center in California quickly changed from anxiety to exhilaration, with cheers erupting, as soon as engineers confirmed that the Curiosity rover made a perfect landing on Mars August 6, after a nearly 9-month voyage from Earth.  
 
Mars Science Lab team members were jubilant as they learned the rover's parachute had deployed, its rocket thrusters had ignited, and its skycrane had activated for a flawless touchdown. 

Within minutes, Curiosity provided its first black and white image from Mars.  The rover sent an image of its wheel, proof of a solid landing. 
 
At a news briefing Monday afternoon, NASA showed more images from Curiosity's first few hours on its new home planet.
 
One showed a windswept Martian plain.  Scientists say another shows what might be an outline of Mount Sharp, the peak in Gale Crater that is expected to yield information about the planet's evolution.  

NASA video of Curiosity landing process



Mission Manager Michael Watkins said colorful panoramic and three-dimensional images will come. "But these first images are always somehow the best to me because when you land on Mars, it's new every time," said Watkins.  "This is a new place on Mars.  We go on vacation to see a different part of the Earth.  It's on our own planet, and here we're seeing a part of Mars we've never seen before."  
An image from a satellite obiting Mars of Curiosity's landing parachuteAn image from a satellite obiting Mars of Curiosity's landing parachute
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An image from a satellite obiting Mars of Curiosity's landing parachute
An image from a satellite obiting Mars of Curiosity's landing parachute
But Curiosity was not only a photographer. It also was photographed.
 
From a distance of about 340 kilometers, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a picture of the Mars Science Lab - its parachute deployed after its fiery descent through the Martian atmosphere.
 
The detailed image thrilled those in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory briefing room.
 
And everything seemed to thrill everyone at the post-landing news conference. 
 
John Grunsfeld, a NASA scientist and former astronaut, said, "There are many out in the community who say that NASA has lost its way, that we don't know how to explore, that we've lost our moxie. I think it's fair to say that NASA knows how to explore.  We've been exploring.  And we're on Mars."   
 
  • This image shows the first color view of the north wall and rim of Gale Crater where Curiosity landed. The picture was taken by the rover's camera at the end of its stowed robotic arm and appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera's cover.
  • This image shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, informally called Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow is seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. In the distance is the highest peak of Mount Sharp.
  • NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute, left, descend to the Martian surface on August 5, 2012. The inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes.
  • In a stop motion frame taken during the NASA rover Mars landing, the heat shield falls away during Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars.
  • One of the first views from NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. It was taken through a wide-angle lens on one of the rover's Hazard-Avoidance cameras.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area celebrates after learning the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California August 5, 2012.
  • Xavier Cabrera (front, C) of New York, celebrates while watching a live broadcast of the NASA Mission Control center in Time Square, in New York, August 6, 2012.
  • About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA's Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater.
  • NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration.
  • The target landing area for NASA' Mars Science Laboratory mission is the ellipse marked on this image of Gale Crater on Mars (top L).

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden looked to the future. "Today, right now, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars," Bolden said. 
 
The nuclear-powered mobile laboratory has a two-year mission to explore the Red Planet.
 
Bolden said the rover "will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed there on Mars or if the planet can sustain life in the future."
 
NASA officials say initial tests show the rover's 10 science instruments survived the long journey.  In the coming days, checkout procedures will continue, and the rover will send additional images.  And before long, Curiosity's science mission will begin.  

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by: Mark Kaplan from: Ann Arbor Michigan
August 07, 2012 11:44 AM
A"Mars"ing achievement of science and technology. Worth every dollar spent. We should do exploration and science and look for new life and new worlds and at the same time preserve the beauty and life on our own planet. Peace not war.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 07, 2012 5:02 AM
Congraturations NASA!! I understand how much its staffs are jubilant. NASA has transfered its mission of sending astonauts to outerspace to private aircraft company. Now, NASA has acomplished the amount of difficult mission NASA is payed for. I suppose all steps from deployment of parachute to flawless touchdown of rover is undertaken automatically. It's great, cool, and fantastic!! Who could say there is no possibility that there live lives surviving in dry and high tempereture as of today?


by: Sara from: India
August 07, 2012 3:25 AM
Very well done scientists at Nasa. The coming generations would be thankful to you for showing them what is nothing less than a miracle. The technological advancement has surely helped to achieve this miracle.


by: saumya from: India
August 07, 2012 1:23 AM
A complicated landing which NASA has never tried before. A journey which lasted for almost 8 months. This landing was a moment of pure joy.
A costly mission that it was we already have a couple of photos from the surface of Planet Mars.
Here is all that you should know about this one Complicated Landing and all that is now in store for us on Earth:


by: Pyotr from: Siberia
August 07, 2012 12:40 AM
Congratulations to scientists of NASA! Congratulations to Americans, you've once again proved to be the avante-garde of exploration! Congradulations to all of us!


by: Mike
August 06, 2012 10:08 PM
Curiosity rover landing is an outstanding achievement of American science and technology!
The U.S. has an excellent opportunity to consolidate its technological leadership in the world and send a manned Mars spacecraft. The Americans were the first on the Moon, and they should be first on Mars!


by: C. John Hill from: Norfolk, England
August 06, 2012 11:20 AM
Before walking the dog this morning, I sat down and watched the Mars Lander Team at JPL monitoring the successful touchdown of Curiosity (06.31 BST - GMT+1). I consider this event to be one of the greatest achievements of the human race - the science and engineering involved was truly remarkable.
Well, done, America - well done, indeed; a special moment which will be remembered in the history of mankind.

In Response

by: Pam Botha from: Taipei, Taiwan
August 07, 2012 12:57 AM
agree John, was sooo excited to be able to alive for such an exciting event!! Well Done to everyone involved, and to say Thank you for us " that are also so curious!

In Response

by: Ciaran Mulcahy from: Dublin, Ireland
August 06, 2012 5:28 PM
Fantastic culmination of achievments which began with the Lauch of Viking 1, and its landing on Mars, followed by its immediate successor; coverage of which, for me, was from live VOA., on shortwave, as we didn't have satellite TV., or the Internet.

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