The US space agency NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on Mars at 5.14am (GMT) today after an apparently perfect entry and descent dubbed the “seven minutes of terror” by NASA staff. The period referred to the anxious moments during which the spacecraft punched into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph, performed a series of exquisite manoeuvres, and came to a standstill on the ground, all without human intervention.
The first pictures, taken from a low-resolution camera aboard the rover, suggested the vehicle had touched down away from large rocks. The first picture sent was a small one. In one, one of the rover’s wheels was visible. In another, the rover cast a shadow over the floor of the Gale crater as tweeted by it.
Curiosity is the largest and most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to another planet. It ushers in a new era of exploration that could turn up evidence that Mars ever had the necessary ingredients for life — or might even still harbor life today.
I was quite interested to see it land successfully on the surface of the red planet and so I was following its twitter handle for latest, accurate and first hand information in the morning today. August 6, 2012 is definitely a great day for science and today’s achievement may sober down the dark, sad memories; we haven’t forgotten that Hiroshima was nuclear bombed on this day 67 years back and that’s also a gift of science.
Just for info, an Indian scientist Amitabh Ghosh, chair of the science operations working group at NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission, was a member of the team that zeroed in on the Gale crater location where the car-sized rover successfully landed.