NASA has successfully landed the most advanced Mars rover ever built on the surface of the Red Planet.
The one-tonne, car-sized Curiosity, hanging by cables from a “sky crane” (rocket backpack essentially) touched down earlier this morning ending a 36-week flight, and was greeted by cheers and hi-fives in the NASA control room monitoring the descent.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity reportedly succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said of the achievement “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.”
“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.”
Curiosity landed at 22:32 PDT on 5th August (05:32 UTC/06:32 BST on 6th August) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During its two-year primary mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.
NASA will now be taking time to check all systems over the next few days (into weeks) before embarking on their primary mission. We’ll be following developments closely and will share any new images as they’re released, with the first colour image of Curiosity’s surroundings expected in the next couple of days.
This is the fourth rover NASA has put on Mars, but the scale (and sophistication) of Curiosity dwarfs all previous projects.
You can watch the moment NASA received confirmation of success below via NASA TV Channel on YouTube.
You can read more detail about the Mars Science Laboratory and it’s fascinating mission here!