Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Science geeks and Trekkies rejoice! NASA engineers threaded the eye of the needle and successfully navigated the "seven minutes of terror" descent to the surface of the red planet. The Mars Rover "Curiosity" has successfully landed on the surface and is sending back pictures. Curiosity rover touches down on Mars:
NASA’s rover Curiosity touched down deep in a Martian crater early Monday after a picture-perfect descent and landing, beginning what promises to be one of the most ambitious planetary missions in history.
Jubilant NASA engineers and scientists let out a loud and prolonged whoop when the data came in indicating that the one-ton rover had touched down. It remains unknown exactly what shape the $2.5 billion rover is in, but the fact that it survived its “seven minutes of terror” descent was cheered like the grandest Olympic triumph.
The descent and touchdown were tracked by the Mars orbiter Odyssey, which allowed Curiosity to send black-and-white “fisheye” (wide-angle) images within minutes of the rover’s wheels on the ground.
Described by top NASA officials as their “mission of the decade,” the just-delivered rover will search for the building blocks extraterrestrial life as well as investigate how and why Mars turned from a wet and warm planet into the dry and cold place it is now. The complex, precision landing and sophisticated instruments being used on the mission could hasten the day when humans fly to Mars as well.
“We’re on the surface of Mars,” said Allen Chen, voice of master control for the mission. (In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. HANDOUT - REUTERS).
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The many milestones in the descent were met with loud applause and relieved laughter as one bit of good news came in after another.
“We’re about to do something that I think is just huge for humankind — put this chemistry lab on the surface of Mars that can rove, that can see, and that’s going to provide scientists on Earth a glimpse into the past history of Mars,” NASA’s chief scientist John Grunsfeld concluded a few hours before the landing.
He likened the public excitement about Curiosity to the first Apollo moon landing in 1969, and noted that the rover’s landing day coincided with the birthday of Neil Armstrong, the first moon walker.
(Photo: Facundo Lucci, 22, of Philadelphia, center, watches a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing along with hundreds of other spectators in Times Square, August 6, 2012, in New York. John Minchillo - AP).
“We’re going to nail it for Neil,” Grunsfeld said.
“Curiosity will set us up for the day when men and women will land on the surface of Mars, and it might not be that far away,” Grunsfeld said.
Well, not quite the excitement of the Apollo Moon landing, but an advance for space exploration and scientific knowledge. "Space, the final frontier ..."