NASA’s Curiosity rover safely lands on Mars

NASA scientists say the new one-ton rover Curiosity made a picture-perfect landing in the Gale Crater on Mars.

View from the front of the Curiosity rover, which has landed safely in the Gale Crater on Mars. What you’re seeing is the shadow of the rover on Mars’ surface.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were jubilant last night, letting out a long whoop, following word of the picture-perfect descent and landing of the new Mars rover, Curiosity. The descent of the rover from the top of Mars’ atmosphere to the planet’s surface had earlier been called seven minutes of terror by these scientists, because of its extreme difficulty and zero margin for error. The safe landing of Curiosity marks the beginning what promises to be the most ambitious planetary missions in history. Mission mechanical system lead Adam Stelzner said:

It looks extremely clean. We touched down in conditions that were on the more benign side of our nominal expectations. It looks – at least by my eye – like we landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful. Really beautiful.

Video: Mars Curiosity rover’s seven minutes of terror

This is the view from the rear of the Curiosity rover on Mars, which safely touched down on the Martian surface on August 5, following a daring and unprecedented landing. You can see the rover’s wheel in the lower right. Color images will come later this week when the rover has its head up and Mastcam active.

The Curiosity rover will be able to travel at speeds of up to 90 meters (0.06 miles) per hour, though it is expected to travel at a slower average of about 30 meters per hour. The rover can roll over obstacles up to 75 centimeters (30 inches) high.

Here is Mars (right) in a triangle with another planet, Saturn (top), and the star Spica (right) as seen on August 5, 2012 – night of Curiosity’s historic landing on Mars. People all around the world can see this trio tonight, too. Look west after sunset. Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Migizi Gichigumi in northern Wisconsin.

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Bottom line: NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars.

Deborah Byrd

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