The U.S. has landed on Mars again. NASA's Curiosity Rover has finally touched down on the red planet of Mars.
Odds were not in favor of the large mobile lab, the Curiosity Rover, but NASA engineers of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory were able to land the rover in a risky seven-minute plunge to Mars' surface at 1:32 a.m. on Monday.
The mission took much longer than planned and went way over NASA's budget. The original landing was planned for 2009 and wound up costing $2.5 billion, which was $900 million over the budget, so the hugs and cheers of the NASA crew were much deserved when the rover successfully touched down on the red planet.
Curiosity rover was launched on November 26 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It sailed through space for over eight months in a 352 million mile trip before piercing Mars' atmosphere.
The mission could have gone terribly wrong, as close to 70 percent of previous Mars missions failed. Mars' gravity pulled the rover at a rate of 13,000 miles per hour. A parachute deployed to slow its acceleration and provide an easier landing.
The engineers lost direct communication with Curiosity as Earth set below the Mars horizon before landing. They had to wait for satellite Odyssey to pass by and relay messages from Curiosity to determine its position, how hard it landed, whether or not it was still moving, and whether or not it was emitting continuous communication.
However after a nerve wracking several minutes, Curiosity successfully landed. Screams and cheers errupted in the control room as an engineer announced "touchdown confimed" at 1:32 a.m.
"There are many out in the community that say NASA has lost its way, that we don't know how to explore, that we've lost our moxie," said John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, as quoted by USA Today.
"I want you to look around tonight. All those folks with the blue shirts, and think about what we've achieved. I think it's fair to say that NASA knows how to explore. We've been exploring, and we're on Mars," he said.
"This feat that you saw tonight is something that only the United States of America can do. And the rover is made in the USA."
No other nation has landed any sort of spacecraft on Mars. Obama commented on the accomplishment, calling it "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."
Due to the delayed communication, NASA engineers did not see the Curiosity rover land in the 100-mile stretch of Gale Crater until they received images seven minutes later.
The Curiosity rover is the size of a car and weighs a ton. It will spend two years on the planet searching for signs of early life, like carbon molecules and water.
During the first week, Curiosity will deploy its main antenna; raise a mast that contains cameras, a rock-vaporizing laser and other tools. It will then take the first panoramic photos of its surroundings.
NASA will check out Curiosity during the first few weeks before sending it out roving to make sure nothing was damaged during the landing. It is expected to ta take its first Martian soil sample in mid-September and will start drilling into rocks in October or November.
There is live coverage on Curiosity rover's progess on Twitter.
Watch Coverage of the NASA control room as the Curiosity rover lands on Mars.