On Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover successfully touched down on at 1:32 a.m. EDT after a 36-week journey covering 352 million miles. The one-ton rover, which NASA boasts as its most advanced, now begins a two-year investigation of the Red Planet.
In a statement released today by the White House, President Barack Obama beamed “Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history. The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.”
NASA’s own Jet Propulsion Lab was a scene of raucous jubilation after it became clear Curiosity had survived the perilous landing, the Associated Press reports.
“With the retirement of the Shuttle program after its final flight in July 2011, some have suggested that NASA’s leadership in the exploration of space, including our extraordinary successes on Mars, was coming to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth,” NASA Administrator Jim Wilson posts on nasa.gov.
The manned spacecraft Orion is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2014 and should be ready for launch in 2017. This will mark Humanity’s furthest and most ambitious exploration of the solar system.
In the mean time, Curiosity has already begun its mission, including: determining the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface, searching for the chemical building blocks of life, and continually measuring radiation exposure as it explores the surface of Mars. This data will prove important to the future manned mission.