September 2012

A Sense Of Curiosity

Celebrating the safe landing of the latest Mars rover and an up-close look at Curiosity...

Rendering of Curiosity and "Sky-Crane." Photo Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Tyrone with Curiosity in 2010. Photo Courtesy of the Kids' Science Challenge.
Mars Surface, Photo Courtesy of NASA.

Late in the evening on Sunday, August 5th 2012, the Mars rover "Curiosity" descended to the surface of the red planet reaching speeds up to 6000 meters per second. In the last few moments of the 253-day journey, a parachute was deployed to slow its fall before the landing stage near Gale Crater. Curiosity's arrival on Mars was unconventional. In a so-called 'sky crane' landing, the rover was lowered on cables beneath the rocket-powered landing stage.

What's most exciting to us, is in 2010, our Kid's Science Challenge winner Tyrone Hutchinson invented a new sport to play on Mars called "Magnetic Soil Ball". As part of the grand prize, we took him to meet the folks of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he saw Curiosity up close and personal roughly a year before its launch. Before visiting the rover, Tyrone donned a "bunny suit" (see photo) to keep from contaminating the rover which was kept in NASA JPL's cleanroom.

Curiosity sent its first color panorama of the pebble-strewn plain where it landed. In the distance is the rim of Gale Crater, which scientists would like to explore for ancient signs of life. A wheel of the rover is in the lower right.

To learn more about Curiosity's progress and see the most recent photographs of the martian surface, visit:

To listen to Pulse programs about Mars missions and the search for life on Mars, check out our Daily Programs link from the Pulse of the Planet homepage and select August 2012.