The Mars science rover Curiosity landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/0530 GMT) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA said. Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles said they received signals relayed by a Martian orbiter confirming that the rover had survived a make-or-break descent and landing attempt to touch down as planned inside a vast impact crater. NASA has described the feat as perhaps the most complex ever in robotic spaceflight.The $2.5 billion Curiosity project, formally called the Mars Science Laboratory, is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes. The landing, a major victory for a U.S. space agency beleaguered by budget cuts and the recent loss of its space shuttle program, was greeted with raucous applause and tears of joy by jubilant engineers and scientists at mission control.
Nicknamed Curiosity and scheduled for launch, the rover has a 7-foot arm tipped with a jackhammer and a laser to break through the Martian red rock. What really makes it stand out: It can analyze rocks and soil with unprecedented accuracy.
For More Pics
In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars.
This first image from the Mars rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars shows the rover's shadow as seen by a navigation camera. NASA released the image just minutes after the rover's successful Aug. 5 PDT, 2012 landing. CREDIT: NASA