If you’re like me, you’ve been watching NASA TV on your computer for the past several hours, following the descent and successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover on Mars. The rover safely landed and is now sending back pictures from the Gale Crater, each one met with applause and cheers from the control room. Mars Curiosity is even tweeting its victorious descent:
I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012
The landing occurred at 05:31 UTC (1:31 am EST) today, right on schedule and on target after a 253 day, ~348 million mile (560 million km) voyage. The Mars Curiosity is now sending back photos from the base of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater. The $2.5 billion dollar mission will study this crater for signs of past and present ability to sustain life. Curiosity is the largest rover yet sent to Mars, being 9’10″ long and 7′ tall (3 meters x 2.1 meters) and weighing almost 2000 pounds (900 kg).
Here are a couple of the first pictures sent back from Mars Curiosity:
As Phil Plait points out, “This image is from the Hazard Avoidance Camera, and is actually pretty low res, but still. The camera has a clear protective cover on it to keep out dust blown up when the rover set down, and you can see some dust has stuck to it, muddying the picture (the cover will be ejected soon and we’ll get clearer pictures).”
Besides all this being wicked awesome, it also gives all of us a great reason to slack off today:
Here’s a video of the control room during the landing. Sweet victory.
Here’s a video and graphic explaining a little more about how they did it: