NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover successfully touched down on Mars at 10:32 Pacific time on August 5. This car-sized science lab, named Curiosity, will now begin a two-year mission exploring the planet’s surface, searching for signs of past and present life.
Curiosity landed beautifully at its scheduled destination in Gale Crater after slowing from an incredible entry velocity of 13,000 mph to 2 mph in just seven minutes. Time explains why Gale Crater was selected for the rover’s landing site:
Gale Crater is a hole next to a mountain, and as we’ve all known since the day we first stepped into a puddle, both water and water-driven sediment tend to gather in holes. There will surely be no water around today, but the chemical evidence of it—and perhaps even of the biology it may once have supported—should remain.
Shortly after landing, Curiosity beamed its first low-resolution, black and white photos of Mars from the rover’s HazCams back to Earth. Higher-quality color photos could arrive as early as August 8 or 9, if all goes well with the rover’s instruments.
Watch this video to see the incredible series of events that performed perfectly to deliver Curiosity safely on the planet’s surface:
Raw images from Curiosity are available on NASA’s website.
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