, ,

This morning (well, around 10:30pm Pasadena, CA time yesterday), this happened:

Journey of a lifetime

The Curiosity rover, part of NASA’s ongoing project to explore Mars (with an ultimate goal of sending people to visit!), landed safely to begin exploring and sharing what it finds.

Watch this really fun video of a bunch of space nerds flipping out over a job very well done:

Curiosity is the largest and most advanced space craft we’ve sent off our planet to date. NASA had to devise an entirely new delivery system to gently place this one ton, almost 10 foot (3 meter) long vehicle in a crater on Martian soil to begin a two-year exploration of our neighbor.

To get a general idea of how tricky that landing was, NASA has this video to explain why everyone was on tenterhooks during the Seven Minutes of Terror:

IT LANDS BY ITSELF!! A one ton thing was put on a planet tens of thousands of miles (kilometers :P) away. These scientists thought of everything.

Sorta kinda a little bit cooler than this landing that happened a few days ago (but just barely):

Gif from gabrialto

Though that landing was also insanely impressive. The judge’s jaw quite literally dropped. That’s American McKayla Maroney pwning the vault, helping secure an American team gold, the first since 1996.

But back to Mars –
This is what we just landed far, far away

Image: NASA

Click on the image to see all the amazingly cool 180 lbs (80 kilos) worth of cameras, spectrometers, radiation detectors, and environmental and atmospheric sensors this baby is loaded with, which can even send color photos back to us!

Scientists decided to land the rover in the Gale Crater, created over 3 billion years ago when a meteor slammed into Mars. In the middle, there’s a huge mountain, Mt. Sharp, that’s over three miles (5.5 km, to be a bit more exact) high. The layers that are visible on the mountain, similar to how the Grand Canyon or Israel’s Makhtesh Ramon works, are what the scientists are after. NASA expects to glean information about Mars’ geological past, and especially the clay at the bottom which would signal the presence of water.

But this won’t happen for weeks! NASA’s doing the smart thing and slowly checking all systems and equipment, but Curiosity will begin to drive in September. Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with only some awesome photos.

UPDATE: Sophia brings up the pertinent and important point that, when The Speech that will be given when man sets foot on Mars happens, it should be as moving as Sam’s conviction that we must strive for that day 🙂

She also insists that a link be shared to info on the role of the Europeans in the mission. Not as glorious as NASA, but it’s there!

Articles on the Curiosity landing: