curiosity descended to the surface on sunday. the rover landed early on august 6 (ET).
after an eight months long journey, the nuclear-powered vehicle covered 352 million miles of space and landed safely near the equator of mars.
‘curiosity’ is NASA’s seventh landing on mars but the most ambitious and expensive. called ‘the mission of the decade’ by NASA officials,
curiosity will search for the building blocks of extraterrestrial life and investigate how mars turned from a wet and warm planet into a dry and cold one.
a hovering, jet-powered sky crane, then descended towards the
surface, lowering curiosity to the ground on three 25ft nylon tethers.
it landed upright on all six wheels.
as it neared the atmosphere of mars the spacecraft made an entry at a speed of 13, 200 mph, 17 times the speed of sound.
it was then slowed down with the help of a giant supersonic parachute.
the crater includes a three-mile high mountain, mount sharp, the base of
which appears rich in minerals that formed in the presence of water.
curiosity’s landing site is inside the gale crater. it was chosen because it may once have been a large lake.
curiosity will look there for basic ingredients essential for life (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur and oxygen…)
curiosity is ready to analyse soil and rocks thanks to a laser gun that can hit a rock from 23ft, creating a spark.
the spectral image from the spark is then analysed by a special telescope to establish its chemical composition.
the atlas V rocket carrying ‘curiosity’ from cape canaveral bound for mars on november 26, 2011
image REX features