Curiosity has landed on Mars

(credits: JPL - NASA - All rights reserved)

PASADENA, Calif. – Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced Mars rover to date, has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, suspended by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down on Mars on 5 August to end a 36-week flight and begin a 2-year investigation.

Curiosity landed on Sunday 5 August at 10:32 p.m. PDT (Monday 6 August at 1:32 a.m. EDT) inside Gale Crater, near the foot of a mountain three miles high and 96 miles in diameter. The rover was sent to investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

Two weeks after landing Curiosity fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam from a science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock named “Coronation”. It also flexed its robotic arm for the first time since it was launched in November 2011.

The 7 foot (2.1 meter) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, drill, spectrometer, scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.

Weeks of testing and calibrating its movements lie ahead before the arm delivers a first sample of Martian soil to instruments inside the rover. The maneuver checked motors and joints by unstowing the arm for the first time, extending it forward using all five joints, then stowing it again in preparation for the rover’s first drive.

Curiosity’s adventure is about to begin.

translation by Kim Williams

Curiosity to Mars

Just a few days more and the rover named Curiosity will arrive to Mars, after eight and a half months of traveling.

The tension is growing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, birthplace of the idea of the most complex robot ever conceived in the history of planetary exploration.
In the JPL control room, NASA technicians have tested and retested the various phases of the complicated and dangerous descent to the surface of Mars: the final plunge of the Mars Science Laboratory into the Martian atmosphere has been defined as seven minutes of terror.

The touch-down on the surface of the red planet is expected to take place on Monday, 5 August at 10:31 pm Pacific Daylight Time. In Italy it will be 7:31 am the following morning, but it will take at least 14 minutes to know if the mission has been successful.
Curiosity will go in search of traces of organic molecules, and attempt to discover if Mars is an environment which is capable making the survival of life forms possible. The Gale Crater was chosen as the landing site. One hundred fifty kilometers in diameter, it has a mountain in its centre, Mount Sharp, rising to a height of about 5 thousand meters.

Loaded on board Curiosity is a digital copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on Flight and his Self-Portrait, thanks to an idea of the RAI scientific  news program TGR Leonardo, launched during the course of a special program featuring JPL Director Charles Elachi.