PASADENA, California (Reuters) – NASA’s Mars science rover Curiosity landed safely late on Sunday after hurtling through the pink Martian skies at the start of a two-year quest for signs the Red Planet once hosted key ingredients for life. Mission controllers burst into applause and cheered in relief as they received signals confirming that the rover had survived its perilous descent and arrived within its target zone at the bottom of a vast, ancient crater.
The robotic lab sailed through space for more than eight months, covering 352 million miles (566 million km), before piercing Mars’ atmosphere at 13,000 miles per hour — 17 times the speed of sound — before starting its descent.
Moments after landing, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle and the rover’s shadow cast on the rocky terrain.
”I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” enthused Allen Chen, the deputy lead of the rover’s entry, descent and landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by Cal Tech University near Los Angeles.
Cal Tech students and researchers celebrate..