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Mars rover Curiosity's shadow in Gale Crater  (Source: NASA Twitter)
The $2.5 billion project was made in hopes of discovering that the Red Planet once harbored materials needed for life

NASA celebrated a major victory early Monday morning as its Mars rover Curiosity made a successful landing on the Red Planet. 
NASA rover Curiosity is a one-ton, nuclear-powered, six-wheeled, Mini Cooper-sized machine that was originally called the Mars Science Laboratory -- because that's exactly what it is. It was made to explore Martian territory for a two-year period in hopes of discovering that the planet once harbored materials needed for life. The project cost $2.5 billion.
Curiosity launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011. It has made its way through space for eight months before touching down on Mars. It covered about 352 million miles during that eight-month period.
This morning's landing was not an easy one. Many doubted that NASA could pull off such a stunt because the actual maneuver consisted of a giant parachute and a rocket pack lowering the huge laboratory onto a specific area, and errors were not allowed if NASA engineers wanted Curiosity to stay intact. Also, about 70 percent of missions to Mars have ended in failure, so landing the largest vehicle on the planet seemed impossible.
"It's like us launching something from Kennedy Space Center and having it land in the Rose Bowl, on the 50-yard-line, on a frisbee," said Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator. 
The landing was the most sophisticated and largest of its kind. Over a period of seven minutes, which NASA referred to as "seven minutes of terror," a series of maneuvers took place to ensure that Curiosity landed safely. Seventy-nine pyrotechnic detonations were required for the release of exterior ballast weights, deploying the parachute, removal from the heat shield, etc. If any of these were to fail, the mission would've failed. 
However, after entering Martian atmosphere at a speed of over 13,000 MPH, then hitting Martian soil, Earth received radio signals for confirmation of its landing after a bit of a delay. It landed at 1:32 a.m. EDT in the exact area that it was supposed to reach -- the Gale Crater.
At that point, NASA engineers celebrated and high-fived over the successful landing. 
"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. "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." 
The project may have cost $900 million over budget, but it turned out to be a great milestone for American space travel. NASA definitely needed this boost after retiring its space shuttle fleet last year, which consisted of the Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis spacecrafts. American astronauts were then left to depend on Russia to reach the International Space Station (ISS), but private rocket company SpaceX stepped in to save the day shortly thereafter. SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk, successfully launched its unmanned Dragon capsule to the ISS in May. 
Curiosity will now undergo a series of tests before searching for signs of life (or the ingredients for life) on the Red Planet for two years. It will use instruments like a large robot arm, a weather station, a laser that can vaporize rocks at seven meters, a percussive drill and 4.8kg of plutonium-238. 

Sources: NASA, USA Today, CNN

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Just further proof...
By Lord 666 on 8/6/2012 1:29:44 PM , Rating: -1
The United States nor any other country landed humans on the moon. Watched the live broadcast last night, the engineers acted like they hit the lottery. Why if actual people are that much more difficult and especially since we have already had equipment on Mars. The "novel" approach of landing the new rover is not that different from Apollo 11 either!

RE: Just further proof...
By Kefner on 8/6/2012 1:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Trying to read and understand that was painful!!!!!

RE: Just further proof...
By BZDTemp on 8/6/2012 1:39:05 PM , Rating: 5
You're an idiot.

RE: Just further proof...
By Motoman on 8/6/2012 1:43:50 PM , Rating: 3
...first of all, that is indeed a pretty difficult-to-understand little blurb there.

But basically it seems you're saying that the fact that the NASA scientists celebrated the successful landing of the rover is proof that the whole enterprise is fake...?

Right. Because if you worked for several years on one project with one exceedingly difficult goal, at a cost to taxpayers of billions of dollars, you'd just shrug off whatever happened at the moment of truth - whether it be success or failure.

Although there's clearly plenty of failure here - your's. In that you've utterly failed at any attempt you may have made at any point in your life to avoid being a nutjob.

RE: Just further proof...
By Florinator on 8/6/2012 1:53:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I guess doing a remote landing 154,000,000 miles away is "not that different" from landing 239,000 miles away.

You should get out of the cave more often my friend. It's a wonderful world out there, plenty of things to learn...

RE: Just further proof...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2012 2:03:47 PM , Rating: 3
Uhh you know when we landed on the Moon we had different engineers, right? So please forgive this new bunch for being excited.

Did you like, I don't know, even try and engage your brain before posting this?

The Moon has far less mass than Mars, and virtually no atmosphere to content with. So yeah, it's WAY easier landing people on it than a rover on Mars. And I don't even know why I'm bothering telling you this anyway, because you must be some sort of retard.

RE: Just further proof...
By Lord 666 on 8/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Just further proof...
By Florinator on 8/6/2012 3:08:41 PM , Rating: 2
Oh come on, give me a break. Have you ever watched Mythbusters? Particularly the one where they go to the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and shoot a laser at the reflector panels that the lunar astronauts left up there?

Time to get your head out of your ass and take look around...

RE: Just further proof...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2012 3:50:16 PM , Rating: 2
Oh come on, give me a break. Have you ever watched Mythbusters? Particularly the one where they go to the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and shoot a laser at the reflector panels that the lunar astronauts left up there?

LOL you can't reason with conspiracy theorists. He'll just say they secretly launched a mission years after to drop the reflector panels on the surface or some such nonsense.

RE: Just further proof...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2012 3:46:21 PM , Rating: 3
We DID land a rover on Mars years ago. I guess, like the Moon landing, that was faked too right?

It is obvious I am not the only one that thinks the moon landing was BS

There's also people who don't think the Holocaust happened either, or that aliens travel billions of light years to abduct humans, or that Elvis is still alive.

Congratulations, you're still an idiot. Just one who takes pride in being in a club of idiots.

especially after this Mars rover landing.

I can only attempt to guess what kind of prism you need to view the world through, to attempt to say this is evidence that the Moon landing was faked.

I guess if I went and climbed Mount. Everest tomorrow, I shouldn't get excited or feel any sense of accomplishment because others did it first, long time ago. So it's no big deal.

Anyway I think we've given your moronic view of the world and space travel enough attention. I'm glad you've shared this opinion with us though, because now we know to not take you seriously on ANY topic from now on.

RE: Just further proof...
By Lord 666 on 8/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Just further proof...
By geddarkstorm on 8/6/2012 5:03:51 PM , Rating: 3
Wow, where do we start?

First, the moon has incredibly low gravity, so retro-rocket landings are practical; which is what we did to land on the moon. Mars is too high in gravity, we can't carry that much propellent needed for a retro only landing in any economical way.

Curiosity was also moving a lot faster as it headed towards Mars, than we do when headed towards the moon. The extra speed is needed to get to Mars in a timely manner before its orbit takes it out of fuel range. All that incredible additional velocity has to be dealt with, also making retrorocket landings alone impractical for Curiosity.

Mars has an atmosphere so you risk burning up at the speeds we are talking about, the moon does not (hence you can orbit closely to the moon's surface, making the descent down a slow cakewalk, which is how we landed; we didn't fly straight at the moon but descended from a stable orbit, unlike Curiosity). However, Mars' atmosphere is so thin, that although you'll burn up without a heatshield, a parachute cannot slow down a 1 ton rover like Curiosity enough to keep it from generating Mars' newest crater. If Curiosity weighed a lot less, that might be possible to land with just a parachute, but even for some previous landers (phoenix), it wasn't.

The some previous landers used airbags to bounce safely on the surface. Curiosity is too heavy for this, and no airbag would have kept it from being destroyed.

Hence, a combination of landing systems had to be developed to land such an incredibly heavy object like Curiosity on a planet with sufficient gravity and atmosphere to utterly obliterate it, but too thin an atmosphere to slow it down enough to land. Parachute than retrorockets would have been possible, except the rover has delicate instruments that the dust kicked up by the rockets could have destroyed (or gotten the rover stuck). That wasn't an issue for the moon landers at all, as the people were safely on the inside, and no exposed science equipment was vulnerable to dust; unlike Curiosity.

It's a technological marvel that all four stages of landing (headshield, parachute, retrorockets, skycrane) worked. The engineers have every right to be so elated.

This is a lot harder than landing people on the moon (for the landing portion, anyways).

RE: Just further proof...
By Lord 666 on 8/6/2012 5:08:58 PM , Rating: 1
Thank you for answering the honest questions I had... and without throwing insults.

RE: Just further proof...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2012 8:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
There were no "questions" in your opening rant. Just a declaration of utter stupidity. And if you did have questions, maybe Google the basics before being a dumbass and opening your trap?

RE: Just further proof...
By Lord 666 on 8/6/2012 9:21:23 PM , Rating: 1
Questions usually begin with "why" as in "Why if actual people are that much more difficult and especially since we have already had equipment on Mars." I just accidentally left off the question mark.

Report back when you do climb Mt. Everest or something else positive.

RE: Just further proof...
By delphinus100 on 8/6/2012 8:54:47 PM , Rating: 2
Mars is too high in gravity...

Combined with not really enough atmosphere. As Apollo Lunar missions, the Stardust comet return probe, several Venus landers, the Galileo Jupiter entry probe and the Huygens lander on Titan have shown, you can do a lot with aerobraking, if there's enough 'aero' do do serious 'braking.'

Were it closer to Earth atmospheric density, you could have greater deceleration and a lower terminal velocity for the same heat shield diameter, that would've made a supersonic parachute deployment less necessary, for example. You also might not have even needed the skycrane, just land everything on airbags (not the 'bouncy' kind, the sort already tested for Boeing's CST-100 capsule) and roll off...

...but it's not that dense, and we have to work with the solar system (and launcher payload and diameter constraints) we're given.

RE: Just further proof...
By Jeffk464 on 8/7/2012 12:43:02 AM , Rating: 2
uhm, it weight one ton on earth. On Mars its substantially lighter.

RE: Just further proof...
By Jeffk464 on 8/7/2012 12:54:31 AM , Rating: 2
we really need an edit button

RE: Just further proof...
By sorry dog on 8/7/2012 2:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
maybe lighter but mass is the impact speed and energy to bleed off won't be that much different from an earth landing, without the atmosphere to bleed that energy to.

...and I agree, it would be nearly as impressive as Nasa's feat if we were to get an edit button.

RE: Just further proof...
By TSS on 8/6/12, Rating: 0
RE: Just further proof...
By TSS on 8/6/12, Rating: 0
RE: Just further proof...
By Jeffk464 on 8/7/2012 12:36:15 AM , Rating: 1
Its all about the money. NASA engineers are limited on what they can do by their budget and of course the size of the engineering teams are also limited by budget. I'm sure NASA with enough resources could set up a full blown base on the moon.

RE: Just further proof...
By Gurthang on 8/7/2012 1:06:24 PM , Rating: 1
You are confusing scale here.
The Apollo program was a essentially an open check for NASA to land a man on the moon which you might have noticed is significantly closer than Mars is. And was done in little baby steps proving each part of the program was going to work as planned. And even so many people were hurt or killed in the process. This rover was so far away and there were so many variables that once started EDL was a do or die situation.

That said Appolo was a pioneering effort which advanced our space program consideribly. The point you seem to be missing is that we stopped pushing things on the manned exploration front after Apollo essentially just coasting on the space shuttle for 30 years. Things have gotten cheaper and only slightly better for manned space flight since we landed on the moon. Because we as a country having done the whole moon thing seem to be happy maintaing a RV in orbit and unwilling to fund bigger things.

A better comparison than Apollo is the Viking program. Which at the time cost 1 billion. Or about 3.9 billion in today's dollars. The viking landers could only sit like a turd where they landed, and contained only few intruments. The rovers are amazing not just in what they can do but how much science they pack into gram of vehicle.

To me the biggest failure of the MSL program was that they did not make several at once, wait for the first one to land and tweak the others slightly based on what they learn from the first one.

And finally these people are celbrating because they have spent years of their lives planng, building, designing, and operating this rover and it just completed with flying colors the the most dangerous portion of it's mission.

I don't know about you but I'd be pretty happy too.

So if you are going to doubt the moon landing why not just doubt all of NASA I mean since you can't build a spaceship and go to the moon yourself or even believe that it could be done, apparently nobody else can either. Enjoy that.. I'll continue to cheer on NASA.

RE: Just further proof...
By FaaR on 8/6/2012 2:10:05 PM , Rating: 3
What a ridiculous post! There's so much wrong with everything, from your painfully flawed grasp of facts, to your inability to apply logical thinking and everything inbetween. You could scarcely have gotten anything more wrong had you actually tried.

This mission was a lot more difficult to achieve compared to those in the past due to the size of the rover the United States landed. Previous rovers have landed on the surface using shock-absorbing airbags, but those weighed less than 200kg. The Curiosity is a 1-tonne plus vehicle.

And the landing process is no different than the Apollo landing either, you're correct there Sir. No different, since Neill and Buzz landed on the moon first by aerobreaking through the moon's atmosphere whilst guidance thrusters kept them on course, then fired a supersonic parachute to reduce speed further, then released from the chute and free-fell for a second before switching to landing thrusters to bring speed down further and then gently being winched down the last ten-fifteen meters or so to the lunar surface.

Yes, that was exactly how Apollo 11 landed. Trust me, I know these things just as well as you do!

RE: Just further proof...
By hduser on 8/6/2012 2:18:17 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot the part where on Mars, everything is done remotely and autonomously. It'd already landed before we knew about it. Apollo moon landing was done in real time.

RE: Just further proof...
By delphinus100 on 8/6/2012 9:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
Well, about 1.5 seconds behind events.

And that might not have worked, left to itself. As Neil noted later, they were coming to 'a football field sized crater full of boulders,' for which he had to extend the approach and land beyond, getting very close to their fuel limits...

The Curiosity landing would have been somewhat less tense, if a pilot could have been present (or if FTL direct control were possible...)

RE: Just further proof...
By Fritzr on 8/8/2012 1:57:53 AM , Rating: 2
Now don't give him too much credit ... He had a good 10 seconds of flight time left in the tanks when he touched down at the alternate site he chose just before he would have smashed the lander on the planned site.

The Mars lander did not have the luxury of a last second change in plans since it would have been a pile of junk long before mission control discovered a mistake in landing sites.

The sky crane gently setting the rover down on whatever was there made sure that it would survive almost any type of terrain.

Good advance planning meant that many complex systems failed to succumb to Murphy and there appears to be nothing stopping the rover from driving away once all the post landing checklists are completed and operators have had a chance to look at the pictures of the landing site returned by rover.

RE: Just further proof...
By Florinator on 8/6/12, Rating: 0
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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