Curiosity Is on Mars
NASA Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld, JPL Director Charles Elachi, MSL Project Manager Pete Theisinger, MSL Deputy Project Manager Richard Cook, MSL EDL Lead Adam Steltzner and MSL Project Scientist John Grotzinger celebrate Curiosity’s successful landing on Mars. Credit: Henry Bortman
“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.
Left: The first image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, and the first close-up image ever taken of Mars’s Gale Crater. The dark area is the surface of Mars, the bright area the sky. One of Curiosity’s wheels can be seen in the lower right corner. Right: Curiosity casts its shadow across the floor of Gale Crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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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