Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity successfully landed on the planet early Monday morning. Or, as the rover's dedicated Twitter account tweeted: "I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL"
The challenging landing followed what everyone seems to have dubbed the "seven minutes of terror," a reference to the time it took the rover to travel from the edge of the planet's atmosphere to its surface. To up the difficulty level on the never-before attempted landing technique—which involved the world's largest supersonic parachute—NASA landed the rover in the Gale Crater, avoiding both the crater walls and the mountain that sits inside it.
Because of its size, the car-sized rover was gently lowered to the surface from a hovering sky crane, the New York Times explains. Previously used landing techniques were deemed unsuitable for the larger rover. The landing, which would have likely set back NASA's plans for future exploration had it failed, went flawlessly.
As CNN reports, NASA's mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California erupted into cheers after the successful landing. President Obama called the landing an "unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."
Curiosity's mission on the planet will last for at least two years, the Times explains. Using its sophisticated mobile laboratory, the rover will explore the surface of the planet and look for evidence that Mars once was capable of supporting life. The rover will take its first panoramic shot in a week or so after setting up its cameras and raising its main antenna. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has posted the rover's first two transmitted images.