NASA's latest and most advanced Mars rover,
named Curiosity, has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover,
hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday
to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation. This
was the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including final
severing of the cords attached to the spacecraft and a flyaway manoeuvre
of the rocket backpack.
Curiosity landed at 05:32 UT on 6th
August, 2012 near the foot of a mountain 5Km high and 150Km in diameter,
inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the
rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions
favourable for microbial life.
Curiosity immediately returned its first
view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the
rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the
mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to
configure the rover for work and check the performance of its
instruments and mechanisms.
Confirmation of Curiosity's successful
landing came in communications relayed by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter
and received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA's Deep
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments
with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars
rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their
kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental
composition of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and
scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples
of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into
analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.
To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity
is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The
Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of
layers of the crater's interior mountain. Observations from orbit have
identified clay and sulphate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a
The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed,
developed and assembled at JPL. JPL is a division of the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
For more information on the mission,