"Touchdown confirmed. We are safe on Mars. [Cheers.] Time to see where our Curiosity will take us."
The control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory late in the evening of August 5th, Pacific time, when word arrived that the Curiosity rover had landed safely on Mars. The one-ton rover, which dwarfs all Mars landers that came before it, will now spend a planned two years exploring the Martian surface. The mission is expected to cost $2.5 billion.
Curiosity's task is to investigate the inside of Gale Crater, where a giant mound of sedimentary deposits may provide evidence of a wetter, possibly habitable Mars billions of years ago.
But first it had to survive an elaborate landing sequence, which appears to have gone smoothly. Curiosity landed on time and on target and soon beamed back grainy photos of its wheels and its shadow.
Given the carlike size of the rover and the challenges of landing on Mars, Curiosity's landing goes down as one of the greatest parking jobs in history.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]