Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena are reporting that the largest and most advanced rover ever sent away from Earth has landed on Mars. Some of the first pictures are available on NASA’s website, while the Los Angeles Times has a full story.
“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”
According to the Times, “Curiosity is expected to revolutionize deep-space science, not only searching for indications that Mars is or was habitable, but paving the way for the next critical steps in exploration, including soil-sample returns, sending astronauts to Mars, and even, perhaps, colonization.”
Some of the 5,000 people who have contributed to the project have been working for 10 years or more in order to see this day, and it arrived at 10:32 PM Califoria Time Sunday. Anyone questioning the United States’ commitment to science and ambition should consider the “one-ton, automobile-sized piece of American ingenuity” that is now on Mars, the Times quoted President Obama’s science and technology advisor, John Holdren, as saying.