Top Stories - Posted by Kimm Fesenmaier-Caltech on Monday, August 6, 2012 8:53 - 2 Comments
Parked on Mars: What’s next for Curiosity?
CALTECH (US) — The “seven minutes of terror” are over for the Mars rover, which touched down successfully on the red planet on Sunday night.
The rover Curiosity is now parked, as planned, near the base of a scientifically tantalizing layered mountain within Gale Crater, just south of the Martian equator.
NASA/JPL ground controllers react to learning the the Curiosity rover had landed safely on Mars and begun to send back images to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. The rover will assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support life forms. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
This is one of the first images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This artist’s concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration. (Credit: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
“Touchdown confirmed,” said Allen Chen, operations lead for entry, descent, and landing for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), at 10:32 p.m. PDT from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech. Then the engineers and scientists in the room—who had been intently focused on their computer screens just moments before—started clapping and high-fiving each other, some even crying tears of joy.
The celebrations continued as each of three low-resolution images taken by the rover’s hazard cameras appeared on screen, showing one of Curiosity’s wheels and the vehicle’s shadow on Mars.
Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau joined in the festivities. “This is a win for humankind—Curiosity belongs to everyone,” said Chameau. “Exploring Mars will help us develop a greater understanding of the universe and our place in it. This extraordinary accomplishment is testament to the talent and hard work of the many dedicated scientists and engineers at JPL and Caltech.”
In the days ahead, Curiosity will begin an analysis of its instruments and subsystems, take photographs of its surroundings, and begin using some of its 10 scientific instruments. The team expects that it will be at least a week before the rover goes for its first spin on Mars.
Having traveled about 354 million miles, MSL has cleared some major hurdles, but the scientific journey is just beginning.
More news from Caltech: http://media.caltech.edu/