While there are American heroes in London right now, there are also American heroes in Pasadena, California. NASA has just successfully landed the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars Sunday night. The touchdown climaxes an eight year project, with the past eight months spent traveling to Mars. Curiosity launched from Cape Canaveral November 26, 2011 and successfully landed in Gale Crater (it’s on Mars) on August 6th. The most exciting part came during the final seven minutes through the Martian atmosphere. This little guy was all on his own to let the protective heat shield fall away, deploy his parachute, and fire rockets to slow his 13,000 mph speed. 14 minutes after Curiosity’s landing, NASA received it’s first photograph. Surviving those seven minutes of terror should merit a gold medal. The picture was a little grainy due to all of the dust kicked up, but still pretty cool nonetheless.
And what would be more romantic than a sunset on Mars? Curiosity sent back its first color photograph, and it just happened to be the rim of Gale Crater with a setting sun. Just check out this picture and imagine a picnic blanket and your significant other.
9.5 feet long and 8.9 feet wide, this is easily the biggest rover ever sent to space, about the size of a compact car, but with new metals, weighs only 1,982 pounds. Since this is the heaviest piece of machinery so far to be landed on Mars, NASA now is turning its hopes to sending a manned trip to the red planet, hopefully by the mid 2030′s. That would be pretty cool right? Following behind the other two rovers to have landed on Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, scientists have evolved the construction to combat past difficulties. Since Spirit and Opportunity were both solar powered, they had to hibernate during the winter. Curiosity is nuclear powered, so that’s one point for NASA.
With one phase over, Curiosity will start digging in the dirt for some of the building blocks of life, like carbon. It will also attempt to determine the evolution of the Martian atmosphere, the process of rock formation, the water and carbon dioxide cycle (if it’s there), and determine the spectrum of radiation on the surface.
While it may seem like a lot of hype over nothing, successfully landing Curiosity truly is something to celebrate and is a huge step forward for humanity.
Find more pictures of this historic event back at Newscom.
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 at 11:32 am and is filed under In the News. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.