Rover Curiosity lands on Mars
Spent its first full day on Mars today
After a 36-week, 154-million-mile journey capped by a highly complex but flawlessly executed landing sequence, the rover Curiosity spent its first full day on Mars today at the dawn of a two-year $2.5 billion mission designed to determine if the Red Planet ever supported life and if it can do so in the future.
With excitement from Sunday night’s successful landing still lingering in the air at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mission managers were getting down to the work of getting the rover ramped up for its long job ahead.
“We have ended one phase of the mission, much to our enjoyment and to the joy of a lot of folks here in the audience on our own team, but another part has just begun,” one of the mission managers, Michael Watkins, told reporters at JPL in Pasadena.
JPL scientists released a photo taken by another NASA Mars exploration vehicle—the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—that captured Curiosity floating down to the Mars surface. The photo was taken from 211 miles away.
“Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars,” said Sarah Milkovich, a JPL scientist who works with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. “We definitely caught NASA’s newest celebrity in the act.”
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, from where the mission is being run, cheered and hugged each other when it was announced that Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time Sunday near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Mars’ Gale Crater.
“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars—or if the planet can sustain life in the future.”
Curiosity soon sent back its first picture, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground, then a clearer version of the same, followed by an image from the other side of the rover—a plutonium-powered laboratory on six wheels that weighs a ton and is the size of a small car.
The rover’s primary mission today will be raising its high-gain antenna, which will enable better communication with JPL scientists. Mission managers will also be assessing the status of the rover’s instruments.
But the Rover’s first foray from its landing site will not take place until next month; no soil examination is to take place until the middle of September at the earliest, and no rock drilling will occur before October.
Curiosity is billed as the most scientifically advanced rover ever sent to another planet. It carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science equipment on the previous Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. It is the first rover to carry a laser-firing instrument designed to check the composition of rocks. It is also equipped with a drill and scoop to pick up soil samples that can be analyzed on the spot inside the rover.
PASADENA, Calif.—President Barack Obama today called the NASA team operating the Mars rover Curiosity, congratulating the Joint Propulsion Laboratory scientists and insisting on being notified without delay if they find Martians—"even if they're just microbes."
If you’ve been dreaming of strapping on your own “Iron Man” armor, you might have to wait a while longer. But revolutionary “bionic exoskeletons,” like the metal suit worn by comic book hero Tony Stark, might be closer than you think — just don’t expect to fly away in one.
Exoskeleton developers working in rehabilitation are leading the way, creating wearable robotic suits that allow people with lower-body paralysis to walk upright again.
NASA is planning to catch an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon.
What sounds like something from science fiction is actually a part of President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year, according to a Florida senator.
The budget is expected to be unveiled this week.
It was hardly a doomsday event, but at 2:24 p.m. ET, an asteroid came pretty close to Earth.
And it was only one of thousands of objects that are destined to one day enter our neighborhood in space.
“There are lots of asteroids that we’re watching that we haven’t yet ruled out an Earth impact (for), but all of them have an impact probability that is very, very low,” Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press briefing.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—After traveling nearly 123 million miles, the space shuttle Endeavour spent its last moments in the air today as it took a majestic aerial tour of the Southland, drawing cheers from thousands of residents as it passed overhead before landing at Los Angeles International Airport—a stopover on its road to retirement.