NASA's Amazing Mars Rover Curiosity Landing: Best Moments

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Team Celebrates
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area reacts after learning the the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Groundbreaking Landing


On Aug. 5 PDT 2012 (Aug. 6 EDT), NASA's Curiosity rover landed on the surface of Mars. At 1 ton and $2.5 billion, the rover is the biggest, most expensive and most ambitious probe ever sent to another planet. Curiosity is slated for a two-year mission to study whether Mars is or ever was habitable to life. Here are the highlights from Curiosity's landing:

1. Clara Ma


High School student Clara Ma spoke on NASA TV about her prize-winning 2009 essay to name the rover. "'Curiosity' was the first thing that popped into my head," Ma said of her inspiration for the name. "It's really human nature to always wonder what's out there. This experience has been absolutely life-changing."

2. Side-By-Side Wheels


Peter Theisinger, Curiosity project manager, compares the size of Curiosity's huge wheels to those of the previous rovers sent to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity (medium-size) and Sojourner (smallest).

3. Good Luck Peanuts


Mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., share jars of peanuts during the countdown toward landing. According to laboratory lore, six Ranger moon missions failed to achieve their goals until one mission manager brought a jar of peanuts to his shift managing Ranger 7, which finally succeeded. Since then, peanuts are always present during critical moments, scientists said.

4. Waiting


In the moments before a signal arrived communicating the successful landing, scientists at JPL paced tensely and looked on with baited breath as readings came through from Curiosity. Because of the time it takes signals to travel from Mars to Earth, mission managers didn't learn the rover had landed until about 14 minutes after landing occurred.

5. Moment of Truth


The moment of truth came at 10:32 p.m. PDT (1:32 a.m. EDT on Monday), when the signal came that Curiosity had landed safely on Mars. The dozens of gathered scientists at JPL exclaimed, clapped, cried and hugged each other to celebrate the feat.

6. First Photos


Just minutes after the signal came that Curiosity had landed safely, the rover sent back its first photos from the Martian surface. These pictures, tiny and grainy at first, were nonetheless received with cheers of joy throughout Mission Control.

7. Marble Handover


After the landing, JPL mission managers officially marked the handover from the mission's cruise team to its surface team. The cruise team had started a tradition of placing a marble into a jar for each successful day of the rover's journey toward Mars. Now, the surface team will continue the practice by starting the count over, placing a marble in a new jar for each day of Curiosity's surface activities.

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.