Mars Rover Curiosity Safely Lands, Begins Two-Year Mission

    August 6, 2012
    Josh Wolford

After a trip that took around nine months, the most advanced rover ever produced by NASA has successfully landed on the surface of Mars. According to the Mars Science Laboratory everything went according to plan, as Curiosity aced each step in the most complex landing ever to take place on Mars to date.

Curiosity touched down at 1:32 am EDT next to a three-mile high mountain on the Martian surface.

The rover is 9 feet, 10 inches by 9 feet, 1 inch (not counting the arm, which is 7 feet long). It weighs in around the size of some automobiles – 1,982 pounds (nearly one ton).

Curiosity’s two-year stay on Mars is currently seven and a half hours in, and images have already been coming in. Here’s that historic first image that was transmitted from the rover:

And the early images have already received a high-res upgrade:

These photos were taken through a fisheye lens on the rover’s base.

As you may have guessed, Curiosity’s mission is to investigate Mars’ past ability to support life. Specifically, inside the Gale Crater area of the planet. The Curiosity rover will use a 10-instrument based investigation that includes a robotic arm for close-up inspections, cameras and imagers, and lab instruments to aid the rover in analysis of soil and atmospheric samples.

NASA says that this important mission is a precursor for something even greater:

Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

As you can imagine, the landing was a great moment for those involved:

Yeah, science!

[All images courtesy NASA, JPL]