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'Touchdown confirmed': NASA's Curiosity beams back Mars photos

By Alicia Chang

AP Science Writer

LAST UPDATED: 04:29 a.m. HST, Aug 06, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. >> In a show of technological wizardry, the robotic explorer Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater for the most ambitious dig yet into the red planet’s past.

A chorus of cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sunday night after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built sent a signal to Earth. It had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.

“Touchdown confirmed,” said engineer Allen Chen. “We’re safe on Mars.”

Minutes later, Curiosity beamed back the first pictures from the surface showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun — giving earthlings their first glimpse of a touchdown on another world.

It was NASA’s seventh landing on Earth’s neighbor; many other attempts by the U.S. and other countries to zip past, circle or set down on Mars have gone awry.

The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into “seven minutes of terror” as Curiosity sliced through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered the rover to the ground at a snail-paced 2 mph.

The extraterrestrial feat injected a much-needed boost to NASA, which is debating whether it can afford another Mars landing this decade. At a budget-busting $2.5 billion, Curiosity is the priciest gamble yet, which scientists hope will pay off with a bonanza of discoveries.

Over the next two years, Curiosity will drive over to a mountain rising from the crater floor, poke into rocks and scoop up rust-tinted soil to see if the region ever had the right environment for microscopic organisms to thrive. It’s the latest chapter in the long-running quest to find out whether primitive life arose early in the planet’s history.

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Toneyuki wrote:
Congratulations NASA!!!!

Budget busting 2.5Billion?

Do the SA/ AP reporters have any idea how much money the Feds have wasted on "alternative energy" that has gone belly up? I'll give you a hint, the amount of money from the stimulus given to "green" companies that have now gone bankrupt is well north of 2.5B.

on August 5,2012 | 08:39PM
goodday wrote:
most research leads to failure
on August 5,2012 | 09:23PM
thanks4reading wrote:
now that is cool
on August 5,2012 | 08:54PM
sassafras wrote:
And Obama to take credit for this in T-Minus 10,9,8.......
on August 5,2012 | 08:59PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Oahu taxpayers will feel like they are funding two of these Mars missions if the rail goes through.
on August 5,2012 | 09:28PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
How come that guy in the fore ground gets to hug the blonde woman... while the other tech in the back ground has to hug another guy? Looks like the engineer named Peter scored the touchdown.
on August 5,2012 | 10:36PM
rayhawaii wrote:
I bet some little Martian kid has been bugging his dad for a new toy then out of the sky comes this riding machine. I bet he's thanking his dad non stop now trying to figure out how to start it up for a test drive.
on August 5,2012 | 10:47PM
RichardCory wrote:
How about we fix Earth before we worry about ruining yet another planet?
on August 6,2012 | 04:15AM
rayhawaii wrote:
Looks like a picture taken in Makaha after a fire burned the entire area by the satellite station.
on August 6,2012 | 09:11AM
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