What’s Curiosity doing now? Watch NASA TV

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:

Want to watch the August meteor showers? Click here

Curiosity landed on Mars – in a daring and unprecedented series of steps involving pyrotechnics, a parachute, and a skycrane to give the rover a soft landing on Mars’ surface – at 10:31 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on August 5 (5:31 UTC on August 6, 2012).

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One of the first images from Curiosity of Mars’ surface. Colors images should start coming in later today (August 7). Here’s the shadow of the rover in the foreground, with Mt. Sharp in the background – a destination for the rover in its Mars exploration. Image Credit: NASA

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.

You like this? I love it! EarthSky Facebook friend Denise Talley shared it on our page.

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It’s very easy now to find Mars. Look southwest to west after sunset. Mars will pop into view as soon as the sky gets dark, in a prominent triangle with the planet Saturn and star Spica in the constellation Virgo. Just don’t wait too long. These objects will soon follow the sun below the western horizon.

Bottom line: Watch NASA TV to follow the aftermath of the Mars Curiosity rover’s successful landing on Mars.

August 7, 2012

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Deborah Byrd

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