NASA’s “Curiosity” Mars Rover has officially touched down on the Red Planet. The rover successfully touched down on the surface of Mars right on schedule at about 1:30 AM Eastern Time Monday morning after traveling for 8 months across 500 million miles. Pictures are already being sent from the craft to NASA mission control back on Earth.
NASA’s newest rover is the size of an SUV, weighs over 2,000 pounds, and is valued at over $2.5 Billion. Curiosity has been headed for Mars since last November when it launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This morning, it carried out one of the most complex space landings in history. The landing included a hovering sky crane spacecraft and a massive supersonic parachute. The rover touched down exactly where NASA wanted it to, on a carefully chosen flat area of the planet.
Curiosity’s main mission is to look for possible signs of life on Mars, either past or present. This will include taking thousands of photographs, surveying rock composition, and collecting large amounts of various data. Just minutes after landing, the rover was already sending photographs to the mission’s control center in California. The first photos showed the craft’s wheels as well as the surface of Mars. NASA will spend the next few weeks making sure everything is alright with the rover. Curiosity will then spend about 2 years exploring Mars.
This mission is great news for NASA, the United States, and the Aerospace industry in general. The end of NASA’s long and successful Space Shuttle Program ended last year and the fate of the organization was frequently questioned. This proves that the US is still dedicated to space exploration and furthering our knowledge of the universe.