At 3.31pm today (AEST) the NASA control room in Pasadena, California erupted after people heard these three simple words: “touchdown signal detected." This diminutive sentence signalled that the Curiosity rover had safely landed on Mars.
After a “picture perfect launch” on November 26 last year and a 254 day voyage to the red planet, Curiosity (officially the Mars Science Laboratory) was primed to descend to the Gale Crater on the Martian equator.
A safe landing on Mars
Landing an 899kg specialised roving science laboratory on Mars has been an audacious mission. The mass of the rover presented new technological challenges to NASA engineers.
That gave NASA engineers the opportunity to trial technology that could be used for later human exploration missions.