Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars!

One of the first images sent back by Curiosity, showing gravel / pebbles near one of the wheels. Part of the rim of Gale crater can be seen in the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

After a nail-biting descent through the thin Martian atmosphere, the biggest and most sophisticated Mars rover so far, Curiosity, landed successfully last night inside its target zone within the huge Gale crater.

The “seven minutes of terror” during the descent turned into a celebration as signals received from the rover indicated it had performed a virtually flawless landing – amazing considering that the technique, using the “sky crane” to gently lower the rover to the surface, had never been used before until now.

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Curiosity’s landing on Mars: only two days left until ‘seven minutes of terror’

Artist’s illustration of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

There are now only two days left until Curiosity, the biggest and most complex Mars rover yet, attempts what is also the most complicated landing so far. It will be lowered to the surface via cables hanging down from the descent capsule – the so-called “sky crane” – a technique not used before until now.

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More evidence for ancient ocean on Mars

Orbital view of the Olympus Mons volcano on Mars. If the new research is correct, it was once surrounded by an ocean.
Credit: NASA / JPL

Did Mars once have oceans? That is one of the oldest and most-debated questions about the Red Planet; the evidence has been tantalizing but also inconclusive so far. Now, two new studies are suggesting that indeed there was a large ocean in the northern hemisphere a long time ago.

The first study focuses on polygonal terrain similar to that seen on ocean bottoms here on Earth, while the second suggests that the largest Martian volcano, Olympus Mons, was surrounded by that ocean, much like the Hawaiian island volcanoes.

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New images show Apollo flags still standing on the Moon

LRO image of Apollo 17 landing site, with flag still standing nearby. Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped to answer a long-standing question about the old Apollo landing sites on the Moon – are any of the flags planted there by the astronauts still standing today? It turns out that yes, almost all of them are.

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Curious about Curiosity? Cool new web site about the next Mars rover

Artist’s rendering of the Curiosity rover being lowered to the Martian surface via the “sky crane” – a risky but exciting landing. Credit: NASA / JPL

There is now less than a week until the next Mars rover, Curiosity, lands on August 5 (10:31 pm PT). There is already a ton of information about it available on the web of course, but now there is a great new web site,, dedicated specifically to the Curiosity mission. So if you are curious, take a look!

The official NASA web site is here.


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