It happened last night: The largest and most versatile rover yet landed on Mars, in perfect shape and ready to begin a 2-year scientific mission that may determine if microbial life ever existed on the red planet.
That the Curiosity rover arrived intact is an amazing achievement, considering that nearly every aspect of the landing involved technology that had never been used before, including the “space crane” technology that dropped the rover softly onto Martian ground. The spacecraft housing Curiosity pulled off a series of intricate maneuvers, each one requiring precise timing. The slightest miscalculation at any step in the process would’ve turned the mission into a disaster.
Everything performed flawlessly.
“Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.”
The video below (courtesy of space.com) describes the challenges and successes of the mission so far better than I ever could.