NASA's Curiosity Rover Survives 7 Minutes of Terror, Lands Safely on Mars

NASA's Curiosity Rover Survives 7 Minutes of Terror, Lands Safely on Mars

How do you land a car-sized rover on the planet Mars? NASA answered that question with eight years of careful planning and around nine months of space travel culminating in the most advanced rover ever touching down on the Red Planet last night at 10:32 p.m. PDT. Score one of the home team.

The one-ton rover called Curiosity will now begin a two-year mission to investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, NASA said. But before embarking on that mission, Curiosity had to survive what NASA dubbed "Seven Minutes of Terror," so called because the seven minutes prior to landing involved a combination of complex technologies never before attempted in outer space. That's no small feat when traveling through the atmosphere on Mars at 13,200 miles per hour (MPH) and trying to survive temperatures as high as 3,800F.

Mars Curiosity Rover

"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."

This isn't the first time a rover has landed on Mars, but it's easily the most technologically advanced, as well as the heaviest. Curiosity is equipped with 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the combined science payloads on two previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools have never before been used on Mars, including a laser firing instrument to determine elemental composition of rocks from a distance. As a result of the increased payload, Curiosity is twice as long as wither Spirit or Opportunity and fives times as heavy.
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Compared to the other rovers this one can get down to real business.

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Can anyone explain the benefits of NASA finding the answer to their question of "whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future"? I'm not seeing the use for it right now except that it's an expensive project to satisfy a little curiosity.

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Getting viable human colonies off of Earth is more important than anything else we humans are able to do right now. Humanity is a fractious, fragmented, contentious and pugnacious species, and still perfectly capable of making Earth uninhabitable, either accidentally (by ignoring global warming causes) or deliberately (for example, total nuclear war). Yes, we need more technological advances, but we won't get them by saying, "Let's start on this after we solve all our other problems." That is never going to happen. Anyone with a functioning brain should be able to see that. And the Curiosity project cost roughly the same over a total of 8 years as the war in Afghanistan costs in 8 days and 8 hours, so there's some perspective for you on what priorities the US Congress (who control the pursestrings) has.

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Theres actually alot of reasons for looking for life on mars. Its a bit of a history lesson for us, since mars once had oceans like we do, and if there was life on the planet at some point it may be helpful to find out what happened to it so that it doesnt happen to us. Also, there is currently no proof that life other than us exists in the universe. Its important knowledge because at some point the human race will need to expand into space, and colonizing other worlds may be the way to do it. Additionally, while it may be expensive, NASA's entire budget is less than 3 cents per tax dollar. Thats nothing compared to what we waste on military supremacy.

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That's a good answer. I don't believe the human race is ready for expansion to other planets at the moment however. We need to be able to have a cohesiveness between more countries or I think we'd see another space race. Not to mention we'd need many more steps in technological advancements.

(I know you said at some point ;), I'm just ranting now)

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Why wouldn't you want another space race? One of the biggest things that drives people is competition.

I think most people of united states have pretty much lost why NASA is important. Why wouldn't you not want to explore more? If people never chose to explore we would never have even found this country. Personally i think NASA is great and really love some of the educational resources they have at their site. Such as some of the explanation on certain physics related subjects.

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By "found" I assume you mean "stolen." It was fully settled long before Europeans ever wandered across the Atlantic.

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There's some really interesting answers in this thread.

Did anyone watch the livestream of the landing on uStream last night? It was pretty awesome to be able to watch this little (or large, depending on the outcome) piece of history unfold.

I personally hold the belief that there is no way we're the only planet with life on it. Somewhere in the Universe there's got to be SOMETHING, and I can't wait 'till we're capable of truly exploring the vastness of space. Probably won't be in my lifetime though.

.. Perhaps NASA should hire Gene Roddenberry as a consultant. :D

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I watched it on NASA TV last night. Got real boring... lol

I haven't kept up with the launch but glad it reached mars in one piece after 8+ months...

Karanm: I bet you saw more stars then me xD

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Well I didn't mean they were the first on this land, but technically they did found the country because it didn't exist before they came. Also at some point in time some one had to explore the continent before any one else since humans did not originate from north america.

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" If humans were the only form of life in the universe it would be a terrible waste of space" - Contact

I think that sums up my opinion and from what I can tell Erakiths' as well. Space exploration is very important and having another space race would be awesome. BTW who remembers a few years ago when North America had that huge blackout and there were more stars visible in the night sky than ever before. I remember being on some ahem medication cough cough at that point and just sitting outside and looking at the sky for hours.

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I'm sure I speak for us all when I say:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGQaH3-LK54

[View:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGQaH3-LK54]

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