Curiosity lands safely on Mars

Curiosity Mars Landing

Curiosity, NASA’s most advanced Mars rover ever, has safely reached the surface of the red planet following an eight month, 352-million-mile journey.

The Mini Cooper-sized, plutonium-powered spacecraft touched down at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT. Loaded with sophisticated tools, including a laser that can zap rocks, the $2.6 billion rover will explore a mountainous crater to determine if Mars is or was capable of supporting life, probably in the form of microscopic organisms.

Over the next two years, Curiosity will seek samples inside Gale Crater. The one-ton, hi-tech vehicle, which will be controlled from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, will also analyze minerals taken from rocks or scooped from soil. The results will reveal how the red rock formed — critical to understanding of Mars’ environment.

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[Image credit: NASA]