Curiosity Is on Mars
“Touchdown confirmed.” With those words, Allen Chen of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories announced that NASA’s Curiosity rover had landed successfully on Mars. Several minutes later, the rover’s first image was received on Earth. The image showed Mars’s surface, dark in the foreground; a bright sky; and in the lower right corner, one of Curiosity’s wheels – to verify that Curiosity was on the surface of Mars.
While the rover may go on a short drive within its first month on Mars, it could take as much as an Earth year for it to reach the base of Mount Sharp. Mount Sharp is a target of intense scientific interest. It contains a set of sedimentary layers believed to record the period of Mars’s history, billions of years ago, when the planet underwent the transition from a relatively warm, wet planet, to a dry, frozen one.
For the foreseeable future, Curiosity will be focused on its immediate neighborhood. “The place we landed on looks pretty interesting,” said John Grotzinger, Project Scientist for Curiosity. “We just don’t want to rush out of there without having studied it too well.”
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