Pasadena, CA –

NASA’s newest Martian rover Curiosity has landed successfully on Mars, touching down at exactly 1:31 am eastern time after traveling 354 million miles.  The MSL cruise craft and EDL landing team controlling the operation are located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena, California.  The rover landed inside Gale Crater as planned and within feet of the targeted location near Mount Sharp.

The decent was monitored with communications from the rover decent capsule relayed through the Odessey satellite that is already circling Mars.  In the graphic image below the final decent controller has been separated.

Curiosity cost $2.5 billion and is the most expensive Mars landing project in NASA’s history.

Trajectory and landing Image from NASA of Rover about to land.

Animated depiction of the final landing stage:

The first image sent from Curiosity back to earth.  View: Camera is facing down at one of the 6 wheels of the rover.

The Curiosity Rover team celebrate at NASA’s JPL after successfully landing the rover and receiving confirmation and full communications.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden commented as the events unfolded saying “absolutely incredible, it doesn’t get any better than this, I was on pins and needles.  I know we’re on the ground, we just don’t know what kind of shape we’re in.”

He added, “its a huge day for our nation,… and for the American people”.

The United States is the only nation to have landed anything on another planet.

White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holden said “its an exciting time for the nation and for space exploration” in remarks at the JPL just after Curiosity touched down.

After considering hundreds of landing sites using high-resolution images taken by orbiting satellites, Gale Crater’s Mount Sharp was selected. Mount Sharp is the central mound inside of the crater and consists of sediment layers over 3 miles high, taller than the rim of the crater itself.

Curiosity is on a two-year mission on Mars in search of where the water believed to have existed on Mars went, improved geological understandings of the planet and how Mount Sharp came to exist since nothing on earth is like that.

MISSION FACT SHEET: (Source: NASA)

Landing site: 4.5 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude, inside Gale Crater.

One-way radio transit time, Mars to Earth, on Aug. 6, 2012: 13.8 minutes.

Expected near-surface atmospheric temperatures at landing site during the primary mission: minus 130 F to 32 F.

Rover dimensions: Length: 9 feet, 10 inches (not counting arm); width: 9 feet, 1 inch; height at top of mast: 7 feet; arm length: 7 feet; wheel diameter: 20 inches.

Science payload: 165 pounds in 10 instruments: Alpha Particle X-ray spectrometer, Chemistry and Camera, Chemistry and Mineralogy, Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, Mars Descent Imager, Mars Hand Lens Imager, Mast Camera, Radiation Assessment Detector, rover environmental Monitoring station, and Sample Analysis at Mars.

Launch Vehicle
Type: Atlas V 541 Height with payload: 191 feet.
Mass, fully fueled, with spacecraft on top: 1.17 million pounds.

MORE ABOUT MARS:

One of five planets known to ancients; Mars was the Roman god of war, agriculture, and the state.

Average diameter 4,212 miles; about half the size of earth, but twice the size of earth’s moon.

Atmosphere composed chiefly of carbon dioxide (95.3 percent), nitrogen (2.7 percent) and argon (1.6 percent).

surface winds of 0 to about 20 miles per hour (0 to about 9 meters per second), with gusts of about 90 miles per hour.

The highest point is Olympus Mons, a huge shield volcano about 16 miles high and 370 miles across; has about the same area as Arizona.

Canyon system of Valles Marineris is largest and deepest known in solar system; extends more than 2,500 miles and has 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometers) relief from floors to tops of surrounding plateaus.

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