NASA announced today that the Martian rover, Curiosity, has successfully landed on the Red Planet. In an amazing display of engineering, Curiosity roared through the Martian atmosphere, undertook a series of maneuvers to slow itself down, and then landed safely in the Gale Crater, near Mars’ equator.
The rover’s touchdown on Mars is just another triumph for America’s unmanned space program. We have probes, satellites, robots, and landers operating all across the solar system — and for the first time in human history just outside of it, too.
Curiosity‘s mission will be a long, and interesting, one that will last for at least two years. The rover is the largest device NASA has yet landed on Mars and is powered with a long-lasting plutonium battery. It will navigate the Martian surface, scan the Martian soil for signs of water, climb a Martian mountain, and collect samples to test for organic compounds, and pulverize rocks with a laser. And, because this is the social media age, Curiosity of course has its own Twitter feed. The rover therefore also has made history by sending the first Tweet from the surface of Mars. It said: “I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!”