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Posted at 08:26 PM ET, 08/06/2012

Mars rover Curiosity lands, NASA releases new image and video: ‘The surface mission of Curiosity has now begun’

8:23 p.m. - NASA releases short video of Mars rover descent

We discovered via io9 this video of the Mars rover Curiosity making its way toward the surface of Mars. The thumbnail images in sequence and taken by the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) show the rover in the last two-and-a-half minutes of Curiosity’s descent to Mars:

1:13: News briefing ends!

The news briefing is over. We’ll have a couple more updates with the photos that were passed down. In the meantime, let us know what you thought of the news conference in the comments below.

1:05: What’s the significance of the HiRise imagery

“The fact that we see ourselves arriving [on] another planet,” said Miguel San Martin, a member of the altitude control systems team, “it’s just mind boggling to me — to all of us. I just can’t say more than that. It’s just the coolest thing.”

1:00: Why is the MSL team living on Mars time for the first 90 Sols?

The MSL team will be working on Mars time for the next 90 Martian days or Sols. “We have to learn how to use this very complicated machine that we've built,” said mission manager Mark Watkins. “So, we want to run through our paces in an efficient way.”

Working on Mars time gives the team 16 hours to plan an uplink while the rover is sleeping on Mars. The team — roughly 400 scientists on the mission and another 300 or more engineers — is still learning how to interact and become more efficient. “This is really kind of an immersion training,” continued Watkins. The international team will eventually spread out to their respective institutions, but for the next 90 Sols, they will be working together to develop an efficient workflow.

12:55: What will be in the first color image?

“I actually do not know that,” said Watkins, meaning it is still unclear what part of the crater the rover will photograph in its first color picture. “I think it’s going to be on the flanks of Mount Sharp and Crater Rim,” continued Watkins, making sure to follow up that a clearer answer could be provided later.

12:47: Another news conference scheduled for 4 p.m. PT

It was just mentioned that another news conference may occur at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET if and when the new thumbnails arrive.

(Side note: Sorry about the live video, folks. It should be up and running now.)

12:43: ‘I think we all believed it would land successfully’

“We were a little bit concerned that we would land in a safe mode and that it would take us a little while to get out of it,” Watkins said, going through some of the technical challenges the team was anticipating.

“I think we were pleasantly surprised,” by how the landing had gone, he said.

“We trained ourselves for eight years to think the worst,” said San Martin.

12:34: When will we see high-resolution, color and panorama images and video?

According to Watkins, the team anticipates getting a front Hazcam image with the same resolution as the rear in a couple of hours along with thumbnails from the descent imager. In the next couple of days the first black and white panoramas and a single color frame photo are expected, according to Watkins.

12:29: Too early to determine nature of artifact in early image from Curiosity

The Internet was abuzz with speculation as to what a speck in one of the earliest images sent back from Curiosity could have been, with some suggesting it could be a piece of Curiosity itself. According to mission manager Mike Watkins, it is too early to determine what that artifact could be.

12:22: Three leadership lessons from Mars Curiosity landing

The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor has outlined three leadership lessons learned from the Mars Curiosity mission. (Read more on Post Leadership)

12:20: New photo from HiRise camera captures Curiosity on surface of Mars

“This image was taken six minutes after MSL entered the atmosphere,” said Sarah Milkovich as a black-and-white image of the rover landing on the surface of Mars was shown to gathered crowds. The image, taken by HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) presents enough detail to show the rover landing on the surface of Mars with parachutes deployed.

HiRise, said Milkovich has taken over a hundred photos of the crater in preparation for Curiosity’s landing, but, she continued, “I really think this is the coolest one.”

12:08 p.m.: ‘The surface mission of curiosity has now begun’

The news conference at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. is underway, starting with Mike Watkins, mission manager for NASA’s Curiosity mission.

“The surface mission of Curiosity has now begun,” said Watkins to a much more sober room than Monday morning’s celebratory group

“We built this rover .. not just to land on Mars,” he continued. “We have ended one phase of the mission, much to our enjoyment. . .but another part has just begun.

“We’re just starting that mission, we’re not ending it.”

Roughly two hours after landing, Curiosity called the JPL team via Odyssey, giving the team an opportunity to get more information about the rover’s status.

“She’s in surface nominal mode,” said Watkins.

“We are a go for all plans on SOL-1 activities,” plans that Watkins described as “kind of boring,” including system checks to make sure the rover is fully operational. The first order of business: Making sure communications back to Earth are healthy.

Referring to the first, black-and-white photos that Curiosity sent to Earth, Watkins said, “it’s not such a great picture anymore,” but he maintained that, given their status as the first images from the rover, they were still his favorites. The team and the world continue to wait for higher-resolution color photographs from the planet.

“When you land on Mars it’s new every time,” said Watkins, “here we’re seeing a part of Mars we have never seen before.”

“Now, this is our new home, at least for a while, here on Gale,” continued Watkins, going on to say that the team believes the rover is positioned East-Southeast, with the front down by about 3 degrees and the left side down about 2 degrees. “We’re in a pretty good spot here.”

Landing is estimated to be roughly 2 kilometers east of the projected landing site.


Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission managers, flight controllers, scientists and administrators raise their arms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after the Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet. (Robyn Beck - AFP/Getty Images)
11:44 a.m.: Prepping for noon ET news conference

We’re getting close to NASA’s news conference scheduled Monday at noon ET.

11:25: Crew members aboard international space station congratulate Mars JPL team

The crew on board the international space station was not left out of the fun here on Earth. In a recording released by NASA Monday morning, the ISS crew congratulated the folks at JPL on the occasion of Curiosity’s successful landing. NASA beamed the video feed to the space station, giving those aboard an opportunity to share in the nail-biting and eventual celebration.

11:13: Fascination with Mars captured in French animated short, “Terraform”

We continue to wait for updates from NASA’s noon ET news conference. In the meantime, we’re looking around the Web for interesting reactions and Mars-related tidbits.

As mentioned Sunday night, Curiosity’s mission to Mars was an international effort, with the United States taking the lead. Washington Post production intern Gregory Thomas discovered this animated short of a fictional landing on the Red Planet via Wired. The video, called “Terraform,” illustrates an almost fairytale-like landscape being re-formed by large space craft landing on the planet’s surface.

First the video:

Then the making-of:

(Read more on Wired)

11:02: Mars celebrations captured in animated gifs

The trend has been going on for some time: an important event happens and hours later its essence is captured in an animated gif — a snapshot suited for the viral Web.

And the celebrations at JPL are no exception, with NASA engineers captured during some of the most dramatic moments immediately after touchdown:

And here, via Software Chief Engineer Ben Cichy is a photo of the party inside, which we mentioned earlier:

Way to be with the glow-sticks, NASA.

10:35 a.m.: President Obama reacts, celebrations continue

In a statement Monday, President Obama said:

Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history. 
The successful landing of Curiosity — the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet — marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.
Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best — push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence — not just in space, but here on Earth — depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.
I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality — and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.

Obama is not alone. So far, black-and-white images continue to be fed back. Among the latest is the fisheye-lens view from Curiosity’s rear Hazcam:


One of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars early Monday. (NASA - Getty Images)

The wait continues for color photos from the surface, as the rover raises its head and fires up the Mastcam.


Descent and Landing Engineer Adam Steltzner reacts after the Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars. (Bill Ingalls - AP)
More images of the celebrations are coming in over the wires, but our favorite so far has to be this tweet from software chief engineer Ben Cichy of the after-party that took place at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, discovered via Post colleague Emily Ingram.

One of the breakout stars of the Curiosity landing has been the rover’s Twitter account, giving Curiosity a personality and a first-person account, so to speak, of the rover’s first moments on Mars.

We’ll continue to feed updates on reactions from around the Web as we get them and live video of NASA’s news conference later Monday, so stay tuned.


In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. (Reuters)

It was NASA’s big night on Sunday. The rover Curiosity was scheduled to land on Mars early Monday, and it did, successfully.

The landing included the much-written about “seven minutes of terror” and confirmation of a safe landing arrived as expected and was followed shortly thereafter by black-and-white photographs of the rover’s wheels and the ground on Mars.

The following is a live blog of the events Sunday night and into early Monday.

3:10 a.m. Curiosity landing news spreads quickly as its first full day on Mars begins

The news conference following Curiosity’s successful landing has just concluded as the news continues to travel online even during the early morning hours.

Another news conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. PT/noon ET. So, I’m wrapping up the live blog for tonight, leaving you with my (and perhaps many others’) favorite moment — when touchdown was finally confirmed after years of waiting.

And, of course, photos of the moment both at JPL and in Times Square in New York.


Mars Science Laboratory flight director Keith Comeaux, right, celebrates with Martin Greco after the Mars science rover Curiosity's successful landing, at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Reuters)


Brian Schratz hugs a colleague as he celebrates a successful landing at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Brian van der Brug - AP)


Kelley Clarke, left, celebrates as the first pictures appear on screen after a successful landing. (Brian van der Brug - AP)


NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory broke out into cheers as it received confirmation that the high-tech rover Curiosity landed on Mars as 1:31 a.m. (Damian Dovarganes - AP)


Isabel Gonzalez, 22, of Staten Island, and Dan Crowe, 25, of Buffalo watch a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing along with hundreds of other spectators in Times Square in New York. (John Minchillo - AP)


Facundo Lucci, 22, of Philadelphia, center, watches a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing along with hundreds of other spectators in Times Square. (John Minchillo - AP)


A spectator watches a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing while listening to an audio broadcast on her phone among the hundreds of other on-lookers in Times Square. (John Minchillo - AP)

2:51 a.m.: Grunsfeld: ‘The Curiosity story is just beginning.’

“Tonight was a great drama that was played,” said NASA JPL director Charles Elachi.

“We had our team that went to the Olympics,” he continued, referring to the Games in London, “and this team came back with the gold.”

“Look at the excitement that we have brought and the inspiration,” continued Elachi, concluding by saying, “our curiosity knows no limit.”


Telecom engineer Peter Llott, center, hugs a colleague to celebrate the successful landing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Brian van der Brug - AP)
Elachi then handed the microphone to physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld who started with a message to those who, in his words, have said NASA has “lost its moxie.”

“I think it’s fair to say NASA knows how to explore. We’ve been exploring and we’re on Mars,” said Grunsfeld to loud cheers.

“And while it certainly is an international collaboration and we welcome the participation. This feat is something . . . that only the United States of America can do. And the rover is made in the U.S.A.”

Then Grunsfeld got down to business, outlining Curiosity’s current status in terms of time spent on the planet, “We’ve been on the surface for one hour, eight minutes and 16 seconds.”

“The last eight months, and certainly for the seven minutes of terror , has started to weave an unbelievable story,” he continued. “The Curiosity story is just beginning.”

2:19 a.m.: Bolden: ‘This is an amazing achievement'


Adam Steltzner, right, celebrates a successful landing inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Brian van der Brug - AP)

“Today, right now the wheels of curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

“It will seek to answer age old questions,” he continued referring to Curiosity’s charge to gather data regarding whether the building blocks of life exist on the Red Planet. “This is an amazing achievement.”

Some of you may be saying, “How can you be saying that. It just looks so easy,” said Bolden. “The odds of success are about 40 percent.”

“Tonight there are at least four countries who are on Mars and they’re on Mars because they went with the United States,” said Bolden, going off script. “But I want everyone to understand . . . what I mean when I say our leadership is going to make this world better.”

“As incredible as our feat was tonight we just succeeded one more time in raising the bar even higher,” Bolden continued, before introducing President Obama’s assistant for science and technology, John Holdren.

“He thought he was going to throw up at one point,” said Bolden.


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden closes his eyes as the rover begins its decent to the surface of Mars. (Brian van der Brug - AP)
“Thank you for sharing that, Charlie,” replied Holdren, taking the microphone.

“History was made here on Earth,” he continued. “It will stand as an American point of pride far into the future.”

“Even the longest of odds are no match for America’s unique blend of technical acumen and gutsy determination,” continued Holdren.

And for those who may have had doubts as to the mission’s eventual success, he said, “there’s a one ton automobile-sized piece of American ingenuity and it’s sitting on the surface of Mars right now, and it should certainly put any such doubts to rest.”

Following those brief remarks the Curiosity mission team filed through the briefing room exchanging high-fives and beaming smiles.

2:16 a.m.: Curiosity tweets first images of her new home

We’re still waiting on those iconic shots, but Curiosity is already delivering the first pictures of her new home over Twitter.

2:11 a.m.: Why the Curiosity is so important

While we wait for the news conference, the Post’s Marc Kaufman describes why this mission to Mars is so important and what we might expect:

2:08 a.m.: Happy birthday Neil Armstrong!

Curiosity’s landing, as The Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman reports, was a success. With the cheers at touchdown greater than those periodically issued from Mission control as the craft made its way through various stages of the descent process.

(Read more on Curiosity’s landing and the historic moment.)

But Curiosity is also significant, since its landing is on celebrated astronaut Neil Armstrong’s birthday. Here’s to one more year and one more giant leap.

1:58: News conference scheduled

A news conference is expected for 2:15 a.m. ET. NASA’s Web site has been experiencing technical difficulties as those online clamor for the first images from Mars. It was restored shortly thereafter.

1:52: ‘It was an incredible performance’

Staff at the Curiosity mission have begun to settle back into their seats after an outpouring of elation. White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren joined the crew for the big landing. Following touchdown, Holdren told NASA, he was “very happy to see this incredible accomplishment.”

“It’s an enormous step forward in planetary exploration. Nobody has done anything like this,” said Holdren in reaction to Curiosity’s landing. “This is by far the most capable . . . set of instruments we have put up there.”

1:40: NASA tweets first images from Curiosity rover

The first images from Mars are in. We just heard a “Holy [expletive]!” over the live feed.

1:35: Images begin coming in from Curiosity

First black-and-white images are coming in from Curiosity with the first picture of the wheel of the craft. Mission control is a sea of high-fives and handshakes, with encouragement from staff members to continue watching the screen.

The first high-resolution image came in shortly thereafter. Two more images are expected.

1:32: Touchdown confirmed!

The signal remains strong as Curiosity continues to make its way towards Mars’s surface.

Touchdown confirmed!

1:29 a.m.: The parachute has deployed, and Curiosity is in powered flight

Curiosity is decelerating, following the deployment of the parachute. Cheers are loud in mission control. The latest update is that Curiosity is in powered flight.


Steve Collins waits during the "seven minutes of terror" as the rover approaches the surface of mars, inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Brian van der Brug - AP)

1:23: ‘Two minutes to entry’

At this point, Curiosity is about 232 meters from the landing target, and the craft continues to send heartbeat tones.

1:12 a.m.: Curiosity completes Cruise Stage separation, delivering “heartbeat tones”

Over the live feed we continue to hear cheers large and small throughout the night as Curiosity completes Cruise Stage separation, nearing Mars atmosphere:

1:02 a.m.: Mission Control Mohawk mystery solved!


Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi, who cuts his hair differently for each mission, works inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Brian van der Brug - AP)

As the traditional NASA peanuts are being passed out, and we continue to wait for the big touchdown. Andy Boyle appears to have solved the mystery of the Mission Control Mohawk.

He tweets:

That’s Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director for the Curiosity mission at NASA.

12:57: “One heck of a lot of professionalism”

“Curiosity is in fantastic shape to perform entry decent and landing and she’s there because you got her here.”

That was the latest update on Curiosity’s status. It’s looking good.

12:54: Who is the person with the mohawk?

Either it’s way past my bedtime, or there is someone with a mohawk in Curiosity mission control. Out of curiosity, I’d love to know if that was for the mission.

12:52 a.m.: ‘So far everything looks pretty good’

We’re getting close. Well, Curiosity is anyway. NASA is currently engaging in subsystem polls to make sure that everything is operational.

12:40 a.m.: About 45 minutes from entry...

According to NASA, we’re about 45 minutes from entry, the transmitter has been turned off and Curiosity is only sending data one way.

Oh, and it’s worth taking a look back at astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Yoda-like tweet:

12:35 a.m.: Engineer who worked on Curiosity says he’s both ‘proud’ and ‘honored’

I received the following message from Robbie Su, an electro-mechanical engineer who worked on the Curiosity rover’s motors driving the wheels, arms, sensing mast and antenna on the rover from 2007-2011. He writes:

“I am proud to have contributed a small part to the largest and most advanced spacecraft ever to land on another planet, and am honored to have worked alongside the best team of engineers in the world, one that has been empowered to dare mighty things.”

12:12 a.m.: Command up-link to Curiosity severed

Mission Control has confirmed that Curiosity is now “on her own,” making her way just past the orbit of Mars’s moon Deimos.

12:07: Nerd break: Our favorite Martian movies

While we wait for Curiosity to make its way to the Red Planet, thought it might be worth exploring some of our favorite Mars movies.

Gotta love “Mars Attacks”

Then there’s “Total Recall” (What’d you think of the remake?)

And who, seriously who, managed to see “Doom?” Anyone?

11:55: Curiosity approaches Mars’s atmosphere

The Curiosity rover is making its way closer to Mars’s atmosphere. Here’s the latest update from the rover’s team on Twitter:

11:50: Will.i.am joins NASA for Curiosity launch

It’s no secret Will.i.am is a big supporter of STEM education.

Computers and other consumer technology, said the Black Eyed Peas recording artist, “it all comes from people that have an education around STEM.”


Musician will.i.am speaks during a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena Calif. Will.i.am attended to promote science and technology education. (Fred Prouser - Reuters)

“Computers, they help me make music, they help me expand my ideas to where I can come up with an idea right now and send it across the world,” he said.

“And now, I want to do my part,” he continued, mentioning his past work with Dean Kamen. Will-i-am is also building a STEM center in East Los Angeles. “STEM isn’t in the hood,” said Will-i-am, going on to say it was not a priority in the school he was eventually bused to. The Grammy winner also took money he raised doing the reality television show “The Voice” while in Britain and gave it to Prince Charles, he said, to start a STEM education program in East London.

“All it takes is one kid . . . to turn into Mark Zuckerberg,”he continued during an interview with NASA.

The artist said he has written a song for Curiosity, which he is keeping under wraps until students from his “i.am College Track ” program students visit the JPL laboratory.

11:34: It’s all about STEM . . .

NASA’s pre-show programming is the lead-up to Mars Curiosity landing is starting with terrestrial curiosity, with a review of NASA’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and calls for growing kids’ curiosity in those subject areas. NASA’s not alone in wanting more kids to study STEM. Microsoft’s on it too . . .

First things first: The Curiosity Landing Playlist

Every major event needs a playlist, and here’s ours. As we gear up for Curiosity’s landing on Mars, send us your suggestions for additions (and, yes, subtractions) from the current list. (If you’re on Spotify or Grooveshark)

The Curiosity Playlist by Emi on Grooveshark

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Mars rover Curiosity on course to land Monday

Photos | 11 things you may not know about the Mars landing

Video | NASA’s mission of the decade

By  |  08:26 PM ET, 08/06/2012

 
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