NASA’s Curiosity Rover Lands Safely

Martian surface - a black and white picture of gravel and a wheel

The Martian surface, and one of Curiosity’s wheels

You know, the first I heard about the Curiosity Rover was when I saw a promotional video for an Xbox Kinect simulation of the “seven minutes of terror”. What’s that? Well, after arriving in Mars orbit, Curiosity would take seven minutes to descent and, hopefully, land on the surface.

The thing is, the signals from the rover would take thirteen minutes to get from Mars to Earth, so by the time the scientists at NASA got to know whether it had landed safely, it would already have been there for six minutes. Building the computer system and physical components to take an object from orbit to a safe landing, after travelling from one planet to another, and all without the possibility of any last-minute tweaks from mission control… well… that’s a pretty tall order.

But it worked! Curiosity landed at 5:32GMT this morning, and has sent back its first pictures of the Martian surface.

Curiosity will now spend two years searching for evidence of past environments that could favour life. Interestingly, it will spend two years because it isĀ funded to run that long… its Plutonium battery could power it for longer if the money holds out.

Find out more about Curiosity on NASA’s website.

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