Photos: NASA Lands Car-Sized Rover Beside Martian Mountain: Photos Celebrating Curiosity
By Kukil Bora | Aug 06, 2012 11:53 AM EDT
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched the Martian surface Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.
According to NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.
Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. (1:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain that was three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.
"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.
"Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars," said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives."
Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.
First Higher-Resolution Image Of Mars' Surface
Just a couple of hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image (the first in the set of images given below) of its new Martian home, Gale Crater. Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., received the image, taken by one of the vehicle's lower-fidelity, black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras - or Hazcams.
"Curiosity's landing site is beginning to come into focus," said John Grotzinger, project manager of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
"In the image, we are looking to the northwest. What you see on the horizon is the rim of Gale Crater. In the foreground, you can see a gravel field. The question is, where does this gravel come from? It is the first of what will be many scientific questions to come from our new home on Mars."
During future mission operations, these images will be used by the mission's navigators and rover drivers to help plan the vehicle's next drive.
The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.
Have a look at images of the Martian surface and the happy moments at NASA following the successful landing of Curiosity.
This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras on the left-rear side of the rover. The image is one-half of full resolution. The clear dust cover that protected the camera during landing has been sprung open. Part of the spring that released the dust cover can be seen at the bottom right, near the rover's wheel. On the top left, part of the rover's power supply is visible. Some dust appears on the lens even with the dust cover off. The cameras are looking directly into the sun, so the top of the image is saturated. Looking straight into the sun does not harm the cameras. The lines across the top are an artifact called "blooming" that occurs in the camera's detector because of the saturation. As planned, the rover's early engineering images are lower resolution. Larger color images from other cameras are expected later in the week when the rover's mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed.Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
One of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of August 5, 2012 in this handout photograph released by NASA.Source: NASA
In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from a second batch of images sent from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars.Source: NASA
NASA/JPL ground controllers react to learning the the Curiosity rover had landed safely on Mars and begun to send back images to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. The rover will assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support life forms.Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scolese congratulates MSL Entry, Descent and Landing Engineer Steltzner as they look at the first images of Mars to come from the Curiosity rover shortly after it landed on Mars, at the JPL in Pasadena.Source: Reuters
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover flight controllers and managers Cook, Theisinger and Steltzner congratulate their team members after a successful rover landing, during a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.Source: Reuters
Bolden, Elachi, Grunsfeld, Cook, Theisinger, Steltzner and Grotzinger stand as they celebrate after a successful rover landing, during a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.Source: Reuters
Brian Schratz hugs a colleague as he celebrates a successful landing of the Curiosity rover, inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover in Pasadena.Source: Reuters
In this image shot off a video screen from NASA TV, members of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team celebrate as the first images are shown on screen from the Curiosity rover.Source: Reuters
Julian Anderson of Detroit, celebrates while watching a live broadcast of the NASA Mission Control center, as the planetary rover "Curiosity" lands on Mars, in Time SquareSource: Reuters
Jasper Goldberg, 22, and Andreas Bastian, 22, watch a live broadcast of the NASA Mission Control center, as the planetary rover "Curiosity" lands on Mars, in Time Square.Source: Reuters