NASA Mars Science Laboratory: Curiosity Lands on the Red Planet

  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California streamed a live link as the Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars and began transmitting images from the planet.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology.
  • According to the MSL update page: “NASA’s Curiosity rover has landed on Mars! Its descent-stage retrorockets fired, guiding it to the surface. Nylon cords lowered the rover to the ground in the ‘sky crane’ maneuver. When the spacecraft sensed touchdown, the connecting cords were severed, and the descent stage flew out of the way.
  • “The time of day at the landing site is mid-afternoon — about 3 p.m. local Mars time at Gale Crater. The time at JPL’s mission control is about 10:31 p.m. Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT).”
  • Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 26, Curiosity is scheduled to spend one Martian year (687 Earth days) analyzing samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the surface of Mars.
  • “Curiosity will carry the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers,” notes the NASA fact sheet. “Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.”