NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, completing a 354-million-mile journey, and marking the beginning of a new era in planetary exploration.
President Obama released the following statement immediately after the landing:
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.
The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.
Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.
I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.
But landing on Mars wasn't easy. NASA engineers have actually come to refer to the entry, descent and landing (EDL) of the spacecraft as "seven minutes of terror."
Curiosity, which weighs a ton and is about the size of a small SUV, approached Mars at about 13,000 miles per hour. When the Martian atmosphere slowed the craft to about 900 miles per hour, a supersonic parachute deployed, slowing the craft even further. But the rover was still descending too quickly to land in one piece.
After the rover separated from the parachute, rocket motors fired, continuing to slow the descent. Then, at about 60 feet above the surface, a "sky-crane" lowered the rover to its new home on the Red Planet.
According to NASA, the rover touched down at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT.
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PHOTOS: TENSION AND TRIUMPH AS MARS ROVER LANDS SUCCESSFULLY
Mars Rover Landing Photos
Despite how late it was be in some places -- including New York -- dozens of landing parties that broadcasted NASA's coverage of the landing were being held around the world.
But don't worry if you're not able to attend one -- HuffPost Science has a recap of the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity, so scroll down for all the details.
Want to join in? Send us your photos from a Mars rover event--just tweet us at @HuffPostScience, hashtag #marsparty, or email us at MarsCuriosity [at] huffingtonpost [dot] com. We'll be collecting user photos from all over, and yours may be featured!
The HuffPost Science team ran the liveblog from the Mars Curiosity Landing Party at Professor Thom's in Manhattan. Andrew Kessler, HuffPost Science blogger and author of "Martian Summer" gave expert commentary. If you have any questions about the Mars rover landing, tweet us @HuffPostScience, and we'll get answers from Kessler himself.