Curiosity has landed on Mars

(credits: JPL - NASA - All rights reserved)

PASADENA, Calif. – Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced Mars rover to date, has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, suspended by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down on Mars on 5 August to end a 36-week flight and begin a 2-year investigation.

Curiosity landed on Sunday 5 August at 10:32 p.m. PDT (Monday 6 August at 1:32 a.m. EDT) inside Gale Crater, near the foot of a mountain three miles high and 96 miles in diameter. The rover was sent to investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

Two weeks after landing Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock named “Coronation”. It also flexed its robotic arm for the first time since it was launched in November 2011.

The 7 foot (2.1 meter) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, drill, spectrometer, scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.

Weeks of testing and calibrating its movements lie ahead before the arm delivers a first sample of Martian soil to instruments inside the rover. The maneuver checked motors and joints by unstowing the arm for the first time, extending it forward using all five joints, then stowing it again in preparation for the rover’s first drive.

Curiosity’s adventure is about to begin.

translation by Kim Williams