With fierce ambition, determination and persistence, NASA scored a huge victory for the U.S. this morning by successfully mastering and executing the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. The potentially risky landing was perfectly maneuvered, and the car-sized rover touched down on Gale Crater at 1:32 a.m. EDT Monday.

In the early hours of the morning as the landing unfolded, each step proceeded without flaw. The capsule entered the atmosphere at the appointed time, with thrusters guiding it toward the crater. Next the parachute was deployed, then shortly after the rover and rocket stage dropped away from the parachute. This began the powered descent toward the surface.

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Instead of following a standard landing, the one-ton vehicle utilized a final landing step specially designed by NASA engineers known as the sky crane maneuver. The process incorporated a hovering rocket which completed the landing by gently releasing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. Two minutes after landing, the first photos popped up on video screens, and within a few hours, even more information beamed back to eagerly awaiting scientists and engineers on Earth. Over the course of this week, Curiosity is scheduled to deploy its main antenna, take its first panoramic shot of its surroundings and raise a mast containing cameras as well as a rock-vaporizing laser and other instruments.

President Obama released a statement earlier today calling the rover’s landing "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future." This morning has marked history and will be remembered by many as the landing of the largest and most sophisticated mobile laboratory ever sent to another planet.


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