On Monday elated scientists from NASA reported to the world that their Mars rover, the Curiosity landed on the planet successfully and all 10 of the scientific instruments aboard it were in ‘perfect health.’
Some of the rover team analysts are looking at data from the Curiosity’s landing, whereas others are engaged in preparing the rover to explore Gale Crater. Day one on Mars for the Curiosity involves it activating its high-gain antenna which will allow it to successfully communicate with the team on earth at higher data rates.
Jennifer Trosper, a mission manager with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said: “There’s a lot ahead of us, but so far we are just ecstatic about the performance of the vehicle.”
When asked if anything went wrong during the Curiosity’s complex landing, she said plainly, “No.”
The landing is commonly known as “seven minutes of terror” because it is such a delicate procedure and so much can go wrong! It involves a sky crane and the world’s largest supersonic parachute which puts the Curiosity in the target area that was specifically decided upon by scientists.
Trosper said that the Curiosity would begin transmitting weather data on Tuesday but said it would be over a week before the team got stuck into the “exciting science.” The Curiosity is equipped with a wide range of elaborate technology that will give scientists on earth a new insight into life on Mars. NASA said that the Curiosity’s purpose was to “to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms.”
The Curiosity even has a Twitter account, where space exploration enthusiasts can follow its progress. If you want to find what Curiosity is getting up to on the Red Planet, you track it on @MarsCuriosity. Yesterday MarsCuriosity tweeted: “FYI, I aim to send bigger, color pictures from Mars later this week once I’ve got my head up & Mastcam active #MSL”
It is a state of the art rover and cost $2.6 billion dollars. It is expected to last for approximately 2 years on Mars, however it is quite possible that it will last even longer than that as previous rovers Spirit and Opportunity were still transmitting data to the NASA team several years after they were supposed to be defunct! They landed in 2004 and were expected to last just 90 Martian days. Communication with Spirit was lost in 2010 after she got stuck in the sand, whereas Opportunity is still transmitting data.