NASA Curiosity Rover Successfully Lands on Mars!
NASA announced today that the Curiosity Rover made a successful landing on Mars! This landing was the first of it’s kind for NASA. It combined a heat shield, a parachute and a rocket crane designed to hover over the landing site and lower the rover by cable to the Martian surface. Talk about some crazy great engineering! To top it off, it all had to be done by computer – no human operator involved in the landing.
The main purpose of the Mars Science Laboratory (the official name of the mission) is to determine whether or not the landing site has ever had conditions that are favorable to microbial life. The mission started when Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011.
The Rover itself is by far the biggest piece of equipment to land on Mars. It’s about 10 feet long – five times bigger than the previous rover mission – Opportunity and Spirit. Opportunity and Spirit provided many of the design elements for this new mission including the six wheel drive system and the mast mounted cameras which help scientists pick routes for the rover to travel.
What I think is really cool is this picture below. It is an image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter. It caught the parachute deployment of the Curiosity Rover as it descended towards the surface of Mars. Two different missions coming together to capture this amazing accomplishment for humankind.
We’ll continue to follow Curiosity’s travels over the Martian landscape and bring you news from Mars as we hear about it!
Image Credit: NASA