Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on MarsThe robotic explorer Curiosity's daring plunge through the pink skies of Mars was more than perfect. It landed with spectacular style, said a NASA scientist, describing the first images of its mechanical gymnastics.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The robotic explorer Curiosity's daring plunge through the pink skies of Mars was more than perfect. It landed with spectacular style, said a NASA scientist, describing the first images of its mechanical gymnastics.
Hours after NASA learned the rover had arrived on target, engineers and scientists got the first glimpses of the intricate maneuvers it made to hit the Martian soil safely.
“It's a spectacular image,” said NASA research scientist Luther Beegle, as NASA planned to release a fresh black and white picture.
Beegle described a shot that shows the rover and the parachute needed to help gently land it. Extraordinary efforts were needed because the rover weighs one ton, and the Martian atmosphere is very thin, making it hard to slow the spacecraft down.
More images, including video of the landing and beautiful color shots of Mars, will follow in days to come. And soon it will be time to get “down and dirty” and start digging into the red planet's past, Beegle said.
Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after signals from space indicated Curiosity had survived the harrowing plunge.
“Touchdown confirmed,” said engineer Allen Chen. “We're safe on Mars.”
Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.
“We landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful, really beautiful,” said engineer Adam Steltzner, who led the team that devised the tricky landing routine.