After NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover arrived at the top of Mars’ atmosphere on the night of August 5-6, it had just seven minutes to go from a speed of nearly 14,000 mph (22,000 kilometers) to a soft landing on Mars’ surface. Because Mars is now 150 million miles away from Earth, NASA scientists didn’t know if Curiosity landed safely for another seven minutes after that – the time it took a radio signal to travel between our two worlds. NASA TV has been celebrating the landing all week. Check it out: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
Although Mars is the planet next-outward from Earth, getting to its surface is hard. The Mars Science Laboratory carrying the Curiosity rover is the 40th mission from Earth to Mars. Of these, only 16 including Curiosity have been successful so far.
Also, be sure to step outside after sunset and see Mars itself in your night sky. It’s located in a prominent triangle with another planet, Saturn, and the bright star Spica. Squint – and imagine Curiosity right there on Mars. So check Mars out! West after sunset. You can read more about these sky scene here.
Bottom line: Watch NASA TV to follow the aftermath of the Mars Curiosity rover’s successful landing on Mars.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.