The U.S. space agency, NASA,
says its Mars Science Laboratory has made a successful landing on the red planet.
There will be several weeks of testing before NASA turns Curiosity
loose to roam about the Martian surface, looking for signs that the planet once might have had conditions suitable to support life.
But first the scientists and engineers at the Joint Propulsion Laboratory
near Los Angeles did a little celebrating.
NASA described Curiosity’s
plunge through the Martian atmosphere as “seven minutes of terror,” but the landing, which engineers said was the most complex ever attempted, proceeded flawlessly.
NASA video of Curiosity landing process
Moments after touchdown the craft sent a picture back to Earth, showing one of its six wheels on the planet’s surface.
This image shows the first color view of the north wall and rim of Gale Crater where Curiosity landed. The picture was taken by the rover's camera at the end of its stowed robotic arm and appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera's cover.
This image shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, informally called Mount Sharp. The rover's shadow is seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. In the distance is the highest peak of Mount Sharp.
NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute, left, descend to the Martian surface on August 5, 2012. The inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes.
In a stop motion frame taken during the NASA rover Mars landing, the heat shield falls away during Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars.
One of the first views from NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. It was taken through a wide-angle lens on one of the rover's Hazard-Avoidance cameras.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area celebrates after learning the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California August 5, 2012.
Xavier Cabrera (front, C) of New York, celebrates while watching a live broadcast of the NASA Mission Control center in Time Square, in New York, August 6, 2012.
About two hours after landing on Mars and beaming back its first image, NASA's Curiosity rover transmitted a higher-resolution image of its new Martian home, Gale Crater.
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration.
The target landing area for NASA' Mars Science Laboratory mission is the ellipse marked on this image of Gale Crater on Mars (top L).
will spend the next two years analyzing rock samples, weather and radiation levels to see whether conditions on Mars have been favorable for microbial life. President Barack Obama praised the efforts that took Curiosity to Mars.
In a statement Monday
, Obama said the landing made history. He called it "an unprecedented feat of technology".
White House science adviser John Holdren says the Obama administration is committed to continuing America's leadership here on Earth and throughout the solar system.
"Landing the MSL rover Curiosity on the surface of the Red Planet was by any measure the most challenging mission ever attempted in the history of robotic planetary exploration," Holdren said. "And if anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of U.S. leadership in space, there is a one-ton automobile-sized piece of ingenuity, and it is sitting on the surface of Mars, right now, and it should certainly put any such doubts to rest."
The nuclear powered rover will spend two years drilling into rocks and scooping up soil to analyze. Scientists hope to determine whether the Martian environment could have supported life in the form of microscopic organisms.
NASA animation of Curiosity rover landing