Mars rover to seek signs of life

2012-08-06 18:03
This photo provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the gravel on the surface of Mars' Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover landed. On the horizon is the rim of the crater. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photo provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the gravel on the surface of Mars' Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover landed. On the horizon is the rim of the crater. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Video

Nasa scientists celebrate landing

2012-08-06 08:33

The Telegraph has released this Nasa video of engineers celebrating when the Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars without a hitch. WATCH

Pasadena - Nasa opened a new chapter in the history of interplanetary exploration on Monday when its $2.5bn nuclear-powered robot Curiosity beamed back pictures from the surface of Mars.

The one-ton mobile lab is the largest rover ever sent to Mars, and its high-speed landing was the most daring to date, using a rocket-powered sky crane to lower the six-wheeled vehicle gently to the Red Planet's surface.

"Touchdown confirmed," said a member of mission control at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as scientists hugged each other and the room erupted in cheers late on Sunday. "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God."

A dusty image of Curiosity's wheel, taken from a camera on the vehicle, confirmed the arrival of the car-sized rover and its sophisticated tool kit designed to hunt for signs that life once existed there.

A second image arrived within seconds, showing the shadow of the rover on the Martian surface. The official landing time was 22:32 on Sunday on the US West Coast (05:32 GMT on Monday), according to a Nasa statement.

The nuclear-powered rover is now set for a two-year mission to explore the Red Planet, including a long climb up a mountain to analyse sediment layers that are up to a billion years old.

When the landing was announced after a tense, seven-minute entry, descent and landing, Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory filled with jubilation as the mission team cheered and exchanged Mars chocolate bars.

President Barack Obama described the landing as "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future".

And Charles Bolden, the Nasa administrator, applauded all the other nations - such as France and Australia - whose scientists contributed to experiments on board the rover's Mars Science Lab.

Crazy but clean

"It is a huge day for the nation, it is a huge day for all of our partners who have something on Curiosity and it is a huge day for the American people," Bolden said.

Obama's science adviser John Holdren described the landing as "an enormous step forward in planetary exploration".

"And if anybody has been harbouring doubts about the status of US leadership in space, well there is a one-ton car sized piece of American ingenuity that is sitting on the surface of Mars right now," he added.

Success had been anything but certain. Nasa's more recent rover drop-offs involved smaller craft that were cushioned with the help of airbags.

In the final moments, the MSL craft accelerated with the pull of gravity as it neared Mars's atmosphere, made a fiery entry at 21 240km/h and then slowed with the help of a supersonic parachute.

After that, an elaborate sky crane powered by rocket blasters kicked in, and the rover was lowered down by nylon tethers, apparently landing upright on all six wheels.

Adam Steltzner, engineer and leader of the entry, descent and landing team, who has previously admitted the landing bid appeared "crazy", said that in the end, it "looked extremely clean".

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures but they hope to use it to analyse soil and rocks for signs the building blocks of life are present and may have supported life in the past.

The project also aims to study the Martian environment to prepare for a possible human mission there in the coming years. Obama has vowed to send humans there by 2030.

The spacecraft had already been collecting data on radiation during its eight and a half month journey following launch in November 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Previous attempts by space agencies since 1960 have seen a near 40% success rate in sending landers, orbiters or other spacecraft to Mars.

Read more on:    nasa  |  us  |  space

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.