Robotic rover Curiosity has successfully landed in Mars’ Gale Crater. The goal of the $2.5 billion mission is to find evidence that the Red Planet was once capable of supporting life. After touchdown, the Curiosity rover sent home telemetry signal and black-and-white pictures from the surface of Mars.
The first images sent by the Curiosity, though clouded by dust kicked up during the landing, clearly showed the shadow cast by the rover, with its wheels firmly on the ground.
The final phase of Curiosity’s automatic landing sequence involved a hovering ‘sky crane’ that lowered the car-sized rover to the ground, and then deactivated by crashing into the surface of Mars. The technique had never been attempted in previous planetary exploration missions.
The landing, described by NASA as “seven minutes of terror,” proceeded smoothly and on the expected timeframe.
Curiosity’s mission is expected to last for two years. The rover will seek out carbon-based compounds, which could prove that life once existed on Mars.