In a technological tour de force, NASA’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover was lowered to the surface of Mars by a rocket-powered flying crane late Sunday to kick off a $2.5 billion mission.
PASADENA, Calif.–In an unparalleled technological triumph, a one-ton, nuclear-powered rover the size of a small car was lowered to the surface of Mars on the end of a 25-foot-long bridle suspended from the belly of a rocket-powered flying crane late Sunday to kick off an ambitious $2.5 billion mission.
With flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory anxiously watching telemetry flowing in from Mars, 154 million miles away and 13.8 minutes after the fact, the Mars Science Laboratory rover — Curiosity — radioed confirmation of touchdown at 10:32 p.m. PDT (GMT-7).
“Touchdown confirmed. We’re safe on Mars!” said mission control commentator Allen Chen as the flight control team erupted in cheers and applause.
“It’s just absolutely incredible, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “I was a basket case in there, I was really on pins and needles.
“It’s a huge day for the nation, it’s a huge day for all of our partners and it’s a huge day for the American people,” he said. “Everybody in the morning should be sticking their chests out, saying ‘that’s my rover on Mars.’ Because it belongs to all of us.”