Yesterday, the efforts of 406 NASA team members and 3,500 Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers, with the help of teams from seven other countries, safely landed a one-ton nuclear-powered rover on the surface of Mars. The complex sequence of landing maneuvers required to slow the massive spacecraft went according to plan, at the end of which a rocket-suspended sky crane gently touched Curiosity down. Moments after landing, the rover sent images, confirming safe arrival, and setting off celebrations by team members and viewers around the world -- at home, alone, or together in viewing parties. Gathered here is a collection of images of the landing, along with new images from the surface of Mars.
CURIOSITY HAS LANDED! First Images From Mars
An image taken by NASA's Mars science rover Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover -- its main science target, Mount Sharp, in this photo released by NASA on August 6, 2012. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change. The image has been linearized to remove the distorted appearance that results from its fisheye lens.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission members work in the data processing room beside Mission Control at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on August 2, 2012 ahead of the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
NASA Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld (left), inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover prior to landing, at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on August 5, 2012.
(Reuters/Brian van der Brug)
About 350 area residents gathered at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Vistor Center to view a presentation on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instriument and to view NASA's coverage of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing.
Pat Gunn of New York, watches a live broadcast of the NASA Mission Control center, as the planetary rover "Curiosity" approaches Mars, in Times Square, in New York, on August 6, 2012.
Image captured from a video shows members of the Mars Science Laboratory team celebrating inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility after receiving the first few images from the Curiosity rover, in Pasadena, on August 5, 2012. Mission controllers said they received signals relayed by a Martian orbiter confirming that the rover had survived the make-or-break descent and landing attempt to touch down as planned inside a vast impact crater. One of the first images sent from the rover is shown on screen in the background.
(Reuters/Courtesy NASA TV)
Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Engineer Adam Steltzner reacts after the Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars, in Pasadena, on August 5, 2012. The rover 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.
Bloggers, Twitter and Facebook social media users, on their computers at a desk with the hashtag #CONGRATS written on it using peanuts after the Mars Rover Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet on August 5, 2012 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on August 5. The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield falling away, when it was about 50 feet (16 meters) from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three seconds after heat shield separation. It is among the first color images Curiosity sent back from Mars. (NASA)
(1 of 2) An orbiting probe sent to Mars previously by NASA, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), looked down on August 5 and managed to catch a glimpse of the newest member of NASA's robotic Mars team as it parachuted to the surface. If you look closely, at the lower right, you can see two white dots, the upper one is the the parachute, the lower, the spacecraft and backshell. See next image for a closer view. (NASA)
Curiosity's main science target, Mount Sharp, seen shortly after landing, on August 6, 2012. The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the the distance is the highest peak Mount Sharp, at a height of about 3.4 miles. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change.
Pete Theisinger, project manager stands inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover in Pasadena, on August 5, 2012. 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.
(Reuters/Brian van der Brug)
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San Martin, Chief Engineer, Guidance, Navigation, and Control at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, left, celebrates with Adam Steltzner, MSL entry, descent and landing, right, after the successful landing of Curiosity on the surface of Mars, in Pasadena, on August 5, 2012.
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Many NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory personnel have lucky rituals they engage in to ensure a safe landing. Here, shortly after the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, Bobak Ferdosi, NASA activity lead for the mission, celebrates with other members of the mission team with the lucky haircut he had done to ensure a safe landing. Original here. (CC BY NC ND/Los Alamos National Laboratory/James Rickman)
A view of the landscape to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the afternoon of the first day after landing. (The team calls this day Sol 1, which is the first Martian day of operations; Sol 1 began on August 6, 2012.) and transmitted to the Spaceflight Operations Facility at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, on August 6, 2012. In the distance, the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The image is murky because the MAHLI's removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover's terminal descent. Images taken without the dust cover in place are expected to come in during checkout of the robotic arm in coming weeks. The main purpose of Curiosity's MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems via Getty Images)
Curiosity Just Days Away
More than eight months ago, on November 26, 2011, NASA launched its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed to the planet Mars. Now, after traveling hundreds of millions of kilometers, the landing is scheduled to take place at 1:31 am Eastern Time on Monday, August 6 (10:31 pm August 5, Pacific Time). The capsule containing the rover will experience "seven minutes of terror", decelerating through the Martian atmosphere, as a series of entry events quickly take place, ending with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover gently to the surface. Curiosity is a beast of a rover, weighing one ton, measuring ten feet long by seven feet tall (at the top of the mast), and powered by a plutonium-238 fueled electrical generator. The rover carries ten instruments, including several high-resolution cameras, and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument called ChemCam that can vaporize tiny amounts of minerals and analyze their components. If all goes according to plan, Curiosity is scheduled for a stay on Mars of about 668 Martian sols, or nearly two Earth years, starting in Gale crater. Researchers hope to use the tools on Curiosity to study whether the area in Gale crater has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed. (Most of these photos were featured in a November, 2011 entry, when Curiosity was launched).
The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, on May 26, 2011, in Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The rover was shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 22, 2011.
In October of 2008, this 6-inch static pressure model of a capsule designed for the Mars Science Laboratory was tested in NASA's Langely Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel in Virginia.
The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory passed flight-qualification testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. In this image, an engineer is dwarfed by the parachute, the largest ever built to fly on an extraterrestrial flight. It is designed to survive deployment at Mach 2.2 in the Martian atmosphere, where it will generate up to 65,000 pounds of drag force. The parachute has 80 suspension lines, measures more than 50 meters (165 feet) in length, and opens to a diameter of nearly 16 meters (51 feet).
(NASA/Ames Research Center/JPL)
Researchers prepare for a test of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument that will fly on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. The instrument uses a pulsed laser beam to vaporize a pinhead-size target, producing a flash of light from the ionized material - plasma - that can be analyzed to identify chemical elements in the target. In this photo taken at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, researchers are preparing the instrument's mast unit for a laser firing test. The ChemCam mast unit, which holds the instrument's telescopic camera as well as its laser, was later installed on the remote sensing mast of the mission's Mars rover, Curiosity.
The ChemCam instrument for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission uses a pulsed laser beam to vaporize a tiny target on this mineral sample, producing a flash of light from the ionized material that can be analyzed to identify chemical elements in the target. Here, ChemCam Principal Investigator Roger Wiens, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, observes the light from a plasma ball induced by the laser hitting a sample rock from a distance of about 3 meters (10 feet).
This test for the radar system to be used during the August 2012 descent and landing of NASA Mars rover Curiosity mounted an engineering test model of the radar system onto the nose of a helicopter. During the final stage of descent, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar. This test on May 12, 2010, at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, in Edwards, California, included lowering a rover mockup on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect descent-speed determinations by the radar.
NASA has selected Gale crater as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The mission's rover will be placed on the ground in a northern portion of the crater in August 2012. This view of Gale is a mosaic of observations made in the visible-light portion of the spectrum by the Thermal Emission Imaging System camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Gale crater is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a layered mountain rising about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. The ellipse superimposed on this image indicates the intended landing area, 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers). The portion of the crater within the landing area has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The lower layers of the nearby mountain - within driving distance for Curiosity - contain minerals indicating a wet history.
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians process the backshell for the Mars Science Laboratory. The spacecraft's backshell carries the parachute and several components used during later stages of entry, descent and landing of MSL's rover, Curiosity.
A closeup of Curiosity's "head" atop the remote sensing mast. Instruments on the mast include two science instruments for studying the rover's surroundings and two stereo navigation cameras for use in driving the rover and planning rover activities. This photo was taken April 4, 2011, inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, For scale, the width of the white box at the top is about 0.4 meter (16 inches). The circle in the white box is the laser and telescope of an instrument named Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam. The instrument can pulse its laser at a rock up to about 7 meters (23 feet) away and determine the rock's composition by examining the resulting spark with the telescope and spectrometers. Just below that circle is the square opening for a wide-angle camera that is paired with a telephoto camera (the smaller square opening to the left) in the rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, which can take high-definition, full-color video with both "eyes." Each of the two Mastcam camera heads has a wheel of filters that can be used for studying geological targets at specific visible-light and infrared wavelengths. Farther outward from each of the Mastcam cameras are circular lens openings for the rover's stereo navigation camera and its backup twin.
The left eye of the two-camera Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity took the images combined into this mosaic of the rover's upper deck in March of 2011. At the time, Curiosity was inside a space simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, for testing under thermal conditions like those the rover will experience on the surface of Mars. The front of the rover is toward the right in this image. On the left is the outer cover for the mission's nuclear power source, a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. At far right is the turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. The light-colored hexagonal object in the top left quadrant of the mosaic is the high-gain antenna, which is about 10 inches (25 centimeters) across.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
Preparation for one phase of testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. The testing during March 2011 in a 25-foot-diameter (7.6-meter-diameter) space-simulation chamber was designed to put the rover through operational sequences in environmental conditions similar to what it will experience on the surface of Mars. In this March 8, 2011, image, Curiosity is fully assembled with all primary flight hardware and instruments. The test chamber's door is still open. After the door is closed, a near-vacuum environment can be established, and the chamber walls flooded with liquid nitrogen for chilling to minus 130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit). A bank of powerful lamps simulates sunshine on Mars. The technician in the picture is using a wand to map the solar simulation intensities at different locations in the chamber just prior to the start of the testing. The space-simulation chamber is at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Early morning finds workers accompanying the first stage of the Atlas V rocket for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission on its move from the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to the launch pad on September 8, 2011. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V-541 configuration will be used to loft MSL into space.
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, spacecraft technicians from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory park the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission on its support base in the airlock during an MMRTG fit check on the Curiosity rover. The MMRTG will generate the power needed for the mission from the natural decay of plutonium-238, a non-weapons-grade form of the radioisotope. Heat given off by this natural decay will provide constant power through the day and night during all seasons. The 43kg MMRTG is designed to produce 125 watts of electrical power at the start of the mission, falling to about 100W after 14 years.
In the high bay of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, spacecraft technicians transfer the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission onto the aft of the Curiosity rover (upside down at right) for a fit check with the aid of the MMRTG integration cart. The MMRTG then will be removed and installed on the rover for launch at the pad.
On June 25, 2011, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians have removed the protective wrapping from the rocket-powered descent stage for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The descent stage will fly the MSL rover, Curiosity, during the final moments before the rover is lowered to the surface of Mars on cables descending from this stage. Once the rover is on the surface and cuts loose from the sky crane, this task for this module will be complete, and it will fire its rockets one last time to crash onto the surface a safe distance away.
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians, using an overhead crane, lift the backshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover. The backshell, a protective cover which carries the parachute and several components used during later stages of entry, descent and landing, will be encapsulated over the rover and descent stage (seen to the right).
In October of 2011, the camera captures a unique view of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as a technician separates the overhead crane from the cruise stage after it was lifted onto a rotation stand. The cruise stage provides solar power, thrusters for navigation, and heat exchangers to the rover during its nine-month flight from Earth to Mars.
The flat, circular object in the foreground of the image is heat shield for the MSL -- the largest heat shield ever to be flown in space. The heat shield and the back shell (center, containing the rover Curiosity), are about to be joined together to form an encapsulating aeroshell that will protect the rover from the intense heat and friction that will be generated as the flight system descends through the Martian atmosphere slowing from an initial speed of approximately 21,600 kph (13,420 mph) down to about 2,450 kph (1,522 mph), when the parachute will deploy.
On October 10, 2011, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the fairing acoustic protection (FAP) system lines the inside of the Atlas V payload fairing (the outer shell that will sit atop the rocket), for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. This half of the fairing has been uncovered and laid on its side during preparations to clean it to meet NASA's planetary protection requirements. The FAP protects the payload by dampening the sound created by the rocket during liftoff. The fairing will protect the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent. Although jettisoned once the spacecraft is outside the Earth's atmosphere, the fairing must be cleaned to the same exacting standards as the laboratory to avoid the possibility of contaminating it.
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparations are under way to enclose NASA's Mars Science Laboratory in an Atlas V rocket payload fairing. The blocks on the interior of the fairing are components of the fairing acoustic protection (FAP) system, designed to protect the payload by dampening the sound created by the rocket during liftoff. The two halves of the fairing will come together, protecting the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent.
Standing atop a payload transporter on November 3, 2011, the Atlas V payload fairing containing NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft rolls down a darkened roadway during the early morning move from Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to Space Launch Complex 41.
Inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, technicians using an overhead crane guide the final solid rocket motor into position for mating to the first stage of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V will carry NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission into space in a launch planned for November 26, 2011.
The Atlas V rocket set to launch NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is illuminated inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41, where employees have gathered to hoist one of the final pieces to be integrated - the spacecraft's multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG). The generator was lifted up to the top of the rocket and installed on the MSL spacecraft, encapsulated within the payload fairing. The MMRTG will generate the power needed for the mission from the natural decay of plutonium-238, a non-weapons-grade form of the radioisotope.
At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Press Site in Florida, participants in NASA's Tweetup photograph the launch of the agency's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) as it races through the clouds. The 197-foot-tall United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifted off Space Launch Complex-41 on neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:02 a.m. EST at the opening of the launch window.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission members work in the data processing room beside Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on August 2, 2012 ahead of the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. NASA said Thursday all was well ahead of its nail-biting mission to Mars, with its most advanced robotic rover poised to hunt for clues about past life and water on Earth's nearest planetary neighbor.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)