News24

Nasa makes history with Mars landing

2012-08-06 08:24

Pasadena - Nasa's successful landing of its $2.5bn Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover on the surface of the red planet marks the most ambitious attempt to reach Mars in history.

The landing, a major victory for a US space agency beleaguered by budget cuts and the recent loss of its space shuttle programme, was greeted with raucous applause and tears of joy by jubilant engineers and scientists at mission control.

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

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

A second image arrived within seconds, showing the shadow of the rover on Mars.

Sky crane

When the landing was announced after a tense, seven minute process known as entry, descent and landing, the room filled with jubilation as chief scientists distributed Mars chocolate bars to the Nasa staff members.

However, success was anything but certain with this first-of-its-kind attempt to drop a six-wheeled chemistry lab by rocket-powered sky crane on an alien planet. Nasa's more recent rover landings were done with the help of airbags.

In the final moments, the spacecraft accelerated with the pull of gravity as it nears Mars' atmosphere, making a fiery entry at a speed of 21 240km/h and then slowing down 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.

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures. Rather they hope to use it to analyse soil and rocks for signs that 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.

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

Earlier on Sunday, Mars programme director Doug McCuistion called the science "absolutely crucial" to finding out if Earthlings are alone, how Mars evolved from a wet to a dry planet and how accessible Mars may be for human explorers in the future.

"If we succeed, it will be one of the greatest feats in planetary exploration ever," he told reporters. "Our success rate has been pretty darn good recently."

However, he cautioned that "these things are really hard to do" and admitted that "we may not be successful".

Attempts by global space agencies since 1960 have resulted in a near 40% success rate in sending landers, orbiters or other spacecraft for flybys to Mars. Nasa has the best record.

Comments
  • richard.clemitson - 2012-08-06 08:41

    Now this is a giant leap for mankind......

      Rabbler.Rouser - 2012-08-06 08:54

      It is indeed. Our scientists are expanading the frontiers of discovery.

      paul.c.wadsworth - 2012-08-06 09:11

      The South African part of this.....Lets send JUJU to drive the thing!

      jason.children - 2012-08-06 09:25

      The Director of Nasa's jet propulsion division who are responsible for launching the Rover and getting it there is a South African who studied at Stellenbosch! So we are very much involved.

      andreviljoenjoubert - 2012-08-06 13:42

      He is from Namibia. But did study in Stellenbosch.

  • adriaan.mostert - 2012-08-06 08:42

    How cool is this! Well woth the spending - much better than spending money on bloody weapons and wars.

  • grantfmeyer - 2012-08-06 08:44

    fake again?

      zaatheist - 2012-08-06 13:28

      .......... always a dumba$$ somwhere!

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-06 14:50

      @ZA, I second that!!!

  • NickvanderLeek - 2012-08-06 08:48

    I suddenly feel like a Mars chocolate bar. Looking forward to some great photogaphy coming from the surface of Mars.

      rudie.vanpletzen - 2012-08-06 09:30

      And now woman can see that we are not from Mars.

  • jacob.siyanda - 2012-08-06 08:49

    "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God." Superb!!!

  • ben.louw.5 - 2012-08-06 08:50

    Awesome! Some worthy news for a change!

  • nate.smithers.3 - 2012-08-06 08:51

    Earth Attacks! :) In Martian theatres marswide

  • jaco.botha.142 - 2012-08-06 08:52

    It is pretty cool, but is it really worth it? Dont see any benefit except for saying 'wow, thats cool.'

      jaco.botha.142 - 2012-08-06 09:51

      Lol, i hear you. That wld be pretty awesome.

      zaaristotle - 2012-08-06 10:46

      Jaco, it is not only about the direct benefit. It is projects such as these that stimulates thinking and the development new technologies that gets used in modern life, such as transport, medicine, communications and so forth. To also be quite honest, and at the risk of sounding like a bigot, the future of the human race is not on earth, unless the indiscriminate breeding (and cyclical breeding into poverty) can be stopped - earth can only support a finite number of mouths.

      zaatheist - 2012-08-06 13:30

      Just as well you were not around to say the same nonsense to Columbus, Cook, Amundson and Diaz.

  • iceman196 - 2012-08-06 08:54

    great news, another planet for the human race to stuff up and pollute

      oneant.kasinski - 2012-08-06 10:37

      i think someone, or something, already beat us to it. ; )

      philjoubert - 2012-08-06 16:56

      Wow- do you rain on every amazing achievement?\r\n\r\nAlso, what are you doing to fix the problem (apart from complaining on news websites).\r\n\r\nI think it's amazing.

  • lostand.damnedskeptic - 2012-08-06 09:00

    well done.

  • bomb.technician.5 - 2012-08-06 09:07

    Please make sure it is totally uninhabited before claims for land appropriation without compensation becomes an issue in 100 years time.

      letlhogonolo.selebalo - 2012-08-06 09:30

      lol batho ba makgakga ntlheng

      bomb.technician.5 - 2012-08-06 09:39

      yours too.......

  • bob.small.7547 - 2012-08-06 09:08

    Great work NASA! If a Malema look alike pops up in Curiosity rover’s camera…..I swear I’m going to jump off a building…!

  • tgif.wtfaw - 2012-08-06 09:16

    Well Done America, we can't even deliver text books to Limpompom in the same time frame !!!!!!!!!!!

  • morgaenart.farto - 2012-08-06 09:17

    To Quote: "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God." I wonder how much those words p1$$ off the God-hating powder-puffs on this site...

      Cayowin_van_der_Badt - 2012-08-06 11:54

      Not so much really. Hearing 'Oh my god' is a just a way of knowing that there is an exited American somewhere in the room. A good drinking game is to watch either an Operah give away show or an episode of Extream home makeover, when ever you hear "Oh my god" take a drink. You will not end the hour sober.

      morgaenart.farto - 2012-08-06 12:18

      That's a capital "G", a$$wipe.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-06 12:43

      Why is it a captial "G" Morgaenart.farto??

      morgaenart.farto - 2012-08-06 16:18

      @Gaza: The gaybots try to deprecate God by using lowercase. Oops, that should read Gaybots.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-07 08:01

      God is a concept, why use capitals to denote a concept???

  • eddy.deepfield - 2012-08-06 09:19

    Great. Science takes us forward. Religion takes us backward.

      jakes.cakedregs - 2012-08-06 20:22

      What a narrow minded opinion you have! The universe is much greater than you will ever understand, my friend.

  • leonard.w.gray - 2012-08-06 09:29

    one small landing for a rover, one giant waste of money - people can't even feed the poor or the starving children of the third world but would blow $2.5 Billion on a pointless exploration where multiple mars rovers have already been but and have found nothing!!

      chris.shield - 2012-08-06 09:54

      Feeding poor children will just make more poor adults who can't support themselves. Exploring the galaxy on the other hand might help us to get off this overpopulated rock which is something we need to do if we're going to survive the next major extinction event....

      bonham.butt - 2012-08-06 10:56

      Well said Chris, why should 3rd world starvation be the responsibility of other nations.

      Cayowin_van_der_Badt - 2012-08-06 11:58

      Why is it NASA's responsibilerty to feed the masses? That is like complaining why is BMW making cars for Germans when there are poor people in Djbouti walking.

      philjoubert - 2012-08-06 16:53

      Ok- so, to put things into perspective. One month's occupation in Afganistan and Iraq eclipse the cost- the only thing gained from that was car bombs and more oil fields...\r\n\r\nStop whining and enjoy an amazing achievement. The advances of bluesky research are all around you, including the computer/tablet/cellphone you are whining on. \r\n\r\nIf we can't explore our nearest neighbor for 0.7% of the US budget and can spent 10-15 on military... You've probably guessed that I'm going to call you a bit short sighted in your critique.

  • monde.sibisi - 2012-08-06 09:31

    Great stuff, now for voyager 1 to do the un-imaginable, which is leaving the solar system. I hope those 35 year old cameras are still functional

  • rasthami.m1 - 2012-08-06 09:34

    Greatest break through in the world of nasa -if the are any inhabitants it would really be interesting

  • thabo.sithebe.1 - 2012-08-06 09:41

    well done,mankind!!

  • errolsnr.oake - 2012-08-06 10:14

    Our Planet earth needs food!, so start planting seeds on Mars.

      rob.gunning.1 - 2012-08-06 12:30

      Plants don't grow without water

  • dylan.sciarappa - 2012-08-06 10:15

    Although its achievement no doubt. What's all the fuss about? They sent two rovers spirit and discovery there years ago!!!

      Cayowin_van_der_Badt - 2012-08-06 12:16

      I wish we lived in a world where sending a probe to another planet is so common place that we can become blase' about the whole thing. But we don't. Curiosity is the edge of science, this is where grand ideas and practical application meet. You may be all "So what they have done it before. Blah blah". The rover missions were launched 10 years ago, think of how much better computers, cell phones micro electronics have got in 10 years. This is the difference beween sending a Pentium 4 and a super computer to another planet. Most of the mistakes in design that were made with Rover have been corrected. Spirt went a total of 8km, Oppertunity went 35km, (they were only designed to go 1km). This one, can climb rocks, it is designed not to stop. Also it is the size of a small car up from the suitcase size of Rover. Let me not even get into the difference in instrumentation package or landing system. This is an awesome event.

  • colleen.devries - 2012-08-06 11:03

    The Marsians are running around shouting' "The Aliens have landed, the Aliens have landed"....

  • rraubenheimer - 2012-08-06 12:13

    What an awesome achievement. Spirit and Oppurtunity now have some company. MSL Curiosity will prove once and for all that the evidence for life on Mars did or does still exist (in microbial form). The HD pics of Mars in comparison to what photos Spirit/Oppurtunity took will be breathtaking. PS: Please can we not bring religion into this one?

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-06 13:09

      Religion, what's that?

  • elsa.tarr.7 - 2012-08-06 12:30

    Great achivement.....

  • bmaestro - 2012-08-06 13:24

    amazing indeed.what an archievement

  • jacques.conradie.56 - 2012-08-06 15:22

    And still we cannot stem population growth or feed the masses.

  • john.mahlahlane - 2012-08-06 17:09

    I wish learners could be convinced and follow science.They might be great scientists of the future.

  • wandi.hlophe - 2012-08-07 11:59

    another hoax,by the americans.what happend to the Neil Armstrong story and the moon landing,mxm.

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