This picture was taken on Mars by the rover Curiosity, which landed on the fourth planet from the sun early Monday morning. (NASA/Getty Images)
“We’re on the surface of Mars.”
That’s how Allen Chen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the successful landing of the robotic rover Curiosity on the Red Planet.
NASA launched Curiosity on November 26, and since then it has traveled 354 million miles. It made a complicated and perfect landing at 1:31 a.m. (that’s Eastern, not Martian, time) Monday.
Curiosity is about the size of a car and a good bit bigger than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that landed on Mars in 2004.
Curiosity will be able to perform science experiments on the Martian surface, digging up pieces of soil and examining them for signs of life. Scientists also will try to understand how Mars went from a warm, wet planet billions of years ago to the cold, dry place it is today.
Three Generations of Rovers are pictured in the Mars Test Yard at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California. Front and left is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. The Mars Exploration Rover Project test rover, left, that is a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004 and shown on the right is a Mars Science Laboratory test rover the size of Curiosity, which just landed. (HANDOUT/REUTERS)
The rover has another mission. “Curiosity will set us up for the day when men and women will land on the surface of Mars, and it might not be that far away,” said John Grunsfeld of NASA.
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