At just after 6:30am Monday morning, NASA’s most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, has landed on the Red Planet.
“I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!” tweeted the one-ton rover, after being lowered by ropes from a rocket backpack called the Sky Crane, and marking the final stage of one of the most complex landings ever attempted on Mars. The rover has travelled over 300 million miles since its launch from Cape Canaveral 36-weeks ago. Having successfully landed the SUV-sized nuclear-powered rover begins a two-year investigation of Mars.
“It once was one small step… now it’s six big wheels. Here’s a look at one of them on the soil of Mars” tweeted Curiosity shortly after landing (you can see the photo of its wheel on the surface of Mars here: http://t.co/cj1zFJty).
Of course the rover is not really tweeting from millions of miles away. For one its too busy setting up its millions of dollars-worth of equipment, including high-resolution cameras, drills and even a laser designed to zap rocks from a distance!
In fact, the voice of Curiosity is the combined effort of a team of three women led by NASA’s social media manager Veronica McGregor. According to online news site, TechNewsDaily, the three women work together as a “hivemind” to communicate on behalf of the rover. All three refer to Curiosity as “she.”
Giving the rover a human “voice” has helped NASA engage with a new generation of space enthusiasts – Curiosity already has nearly half a million followers and this will certainly grow as the mission progresses.
Curiosity will be using its on-board equipment to look for the basic building blocks of life, and chemical energy sources that could have been used by Martian microbes. It will begin by exploring the area it has landed in, a vast impact crater called Gale, thought to have been full of water for hundreds of millions of years. Over the course of the mission it will climb Aeolis Mons, a five-kilometre high mountain right in the middle of Gale Crater.