PASADENA, Calif. -- Space fans, raise a toast: NASA's laser-equipped, beefy-armed, car-sized rover is safe and sound on the surface of the Red Planet. A journey of 352 million miles ended in a supersonic plunge through the Martian atmosphere late Sunday night, and after seven minutes of terror, the Mars rover Curiosity unspooled from the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and alighted on the dusty surface of Gale Crater.
A chorus of radio beeps signaled the spacecraft’s progress, and the Mars Odyssey orbiter transmitted a “safe landing” signal at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time that elicited whoops of joy from the people at Mission Control in California. With wheels down and antennae up, Curiosity is now ready to get to work, combing ancient terrain for signs of life in the Martian past.
“It's the wheel! It's the wheel!" a NASA engineer cried as the first image shot by the craft arrived on Earth. "Oh my God." Curiosity is on the surface!