An earlier blog post, Mars Landing: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror, described all the steps needed to land a one ton rover safely on the surface of Mars, but the fact that the entire process came off without a hitch was beyond anyone’s expectations, as witnessed by the eruption of cheers that came from all the engineers and program managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory when the landing was confirmed.
The cheering, hugging and high-fives continued as the first black-and-white images were received from Mars. Like a robot seeing its own shadow for the first time…
…then looking up to examine the horizon, and realizing that this spot was now home.
The outline in the distance is Mount Sharp, the primary target for Curiosity’s mission to Mars, and the close proximity indicates just how accurate the scientists were in planning and executing this trip to the red planet. At a height of around 3.4 miles, Mount Sharp is taller than Mt. Whitney in California.
As the mission unfolds, the NASA team plans to drive Curiosity to the mountain base and investigate its lower layers, as earlier research indicated that there are signs of water erosion, and that may indicate previous life on this distant planet.
One day it is hoped that humans will travel to Mars and take a personal look at the rocky terrain. While it’s impossible to know just what they might find, let’s all hope their experience is a bit different that what’s depicted in the cartoon below.
Congratulations to all the scientists who are reaching out into the universe!