It is official ! a Touchdown has been confirmed that the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity has safely landed on the Mars surface, some 154 million miles away at 10:32 p.m. PDT (GMT-7; 1:32 a.m. EDT Monday).
Nervous flight controllers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory were anxiously waiting while watching the telemetry taking place via a radio transmission that actually takes about 14 minutes to reach the Earth.
It may be hard to imagine the intense nerves and high-end dram that ensued in the NASA Control room as Curiosity began its 7 minute descent to the Mars surface. NASA had dubbed this action to be 'Seven Minutes of Terror' due to some elaborate and mission critical perilous technological endeavors that were never before attempted on any previous missions.
Flight controllers were monitoring the high -stakes, high - risk drama unfold via a a relay though NASA 's aging Mars Odyssey orbiter, as Curiosity initially began it's decent at a blistering 13,200 mph. Each passing minute was marking a milestone as Odyssey sent back information during the harrowing descent as the thruster and parachutes were able to safely control the landing.
The Curiosity rover can be visualized as it was lowered from the rocket powered sky crane to the Mars surface in the computer animated graphic from NASA.
Curiosity is over twice the size and over 5 times heavier than either of the previous rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed on mars in 2004. It would have been impossible to consider bouncing the rover to the surface on air bags or attempt to fly it self safely to the surface with rocket thruster systems that were used on six previous NASA Mars landers. The Curiosity rover is designed and expected to spend the next two years exploring the Gale Crater, along with a what appears to be an unusual 3 mile high mountain consisting of what appears to be sediments rising from the crater's floor.
President Obama's science adviser, John Holdren stated that the landing was a "technological tour de force." "It's an enormous step forward in planetary exploration, nobody has ever done anything like this," he said. "This lander is vastly bigger, vastly more capable, much more complicated to bring in, many new technologies had to work in perfect succession and perfect synchronization for this to happen. "This is by far the most capable device, set of instruments, we've put up there for determining whether Mars every could have supported life. ... We stand to learn a tremendous amount from this Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory. It's going to do incredible things."
CNET has reported many of the details featuring the 'Seven Minutes of Terror' along with comments, quotes, and photos from NASA.