Life on Mars
Curiosity is a roving laboratory which is the size of a compact car.
As you will have heard, it landed successfully on Mars last Sunday after a journey of 566 million kilometres that took 8 months.
Nasa reports that extraordinary efforts were needed for the landing because the rover weighs one ton, and the thin Martian atmosphere offers little friction to slow a spacecraft down. Curiosity had to go from 20,920km/h to zero in seven minutes, unfurling a parachute, then firing rockets to brake. In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered it to the ground at 3.2km/h.
At the end of what NASA called “seven minutes of terror”, the vehicle settled into place almost perfectly flat in the crater it was aiming for.
“We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment,” mission manager Mike Watkins said. “But another part has just begun.”
It takes 14 minutes for messages sent from Mars to be received here on earth. The
first picture taken by Curiosity has been received, and has been uploaded by George Takei for us to view.