Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity is alive and well on the surface of Mars

In a spectacular feat of engineering Mars rover Curiosity has landed safely on Mars.  Below is JPL's Mission Control upon receiving their first signal from Curiosity on the Martian surface.

These images are from the Los Angeles Times.  Click on the image and you will be taken to a slide show of images that includes the cheers and tears in MC when they received the first signals from Curiosity as well as some of the images it's now sending back to Earth
At approximately 12:30AM CDT, Curiosity started sending images back to Mission Control at JPL.  Like any foreign tourist, the first pictures were of Curiosity itself.

Image credit: NASA

This was the most complex landing engineered by NASA  since the Moon landing. 

Manned space flight is fabulously expensive and all about hubris and national pride.  The real science is done with unmanned spacecraft like Voyager I and II -- the first man made objects to leave our solar system, the Mars rovers, and the Hubble and Webb Space Telescopes. These programs cost a fraction of just the budget for the Space Shuttle alone, and 99% of everything we have learned from our space program has come from them.

The forerunners to the rover missions was NASA's Mariner program that first photographed Mars from flybys and later from Martian orbit.  Mariner 9 remains in Martian orbit today.  Viking 1 was the first man-made object to successfully land on Mars in 1975 (Mars 6, A Soviet lander crashed into the Martian surface in 1973).

We should all be beaming with pride at what NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has just pulled off.

UPDATE: Video of JPL's celebration.

UPDATE 2: Below is an amazing image taken from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of Curiosity's landing.

Image Credit: NASA
You can view NASA's ongoing image gallery of Curiosity.

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