Curiosity: NASA Mars rover lands successfully, proves government can still work

On November 26, 2011, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), a robotic probe, on an 8 month trip to the planet Mars. Early Monday, August 6, 2012 the Mars rover Curiosity successfully landed in the Gale Crater on the Martian surface.  Major private contractors on the project include Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but make no mistake, NASA is still a government agency, and the successful launch and landing of Curiosity (which is the size of a car) on Mars is proof that government can still accomplish big things.

NASA: Seventeen Cameras on Curiosity – This graphic shows the locations of the cameras on NASA’s Curiosity rover. The rover’s mast features seven cameras: the Remote Micro Imager, part of the Chemistry and Camera suite; four black-and-white Navigation Cameras (two on the left and two on the right) and two color Mast Cameras (Mastcams). The left Mastcam has a 34-millimeter lens and the right Mastcam has a 100-millimeter lens.

 

NASA: Cheers for Curiosity – Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., celebrate the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on the Red Planet. The rover touched down on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

President Obama issued the following statement:

August 6, 2012

Statement by the President on Curiosity Landing on Mars

Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.

The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.

Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.

I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.

 

The first images from the mars rover Curiosity:

NASA: Behold Mount Sharp! – This image taken by NASA’s Curiosity shows what lies ahead for the rover — its main science target, Mount Sharp. The rover’s shadow can be seen in the foreground, and the dark bands beyond are dunes. Rising up in the distance is the highest peak Mount Sharp at a height of about 3.4 miles, taller than Mt. Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change.
This image was captured by the rover’s front left Hazard-Avoidance camera at full resolution shortly after it landed. It has been linearized to remove the distorted appearance that results from its fisheye lens. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA: Looking Back at the Crater Rim – This is the full-resolution version of one of the first images taken by a rear Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). The image was originally taken through the “fisheye” wide-angle lens, but has been “linearized” so that the horizon looks flat rather than curved. The image has also been cropped. A Hazard-avoidance camera on the rear-left side of Curiosity obtained this image.
Part of the rim of Gale Crater, which is a feature the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, stretches from the top middle to the top right of the image. One of the rover’s wheels can be seen at bottom right.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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