Washington, DC, 6 August 2012 -- NASA’s rover Curiosity, the size of a small car, touched down in a Martian crater early Monday. Geophysical Laboratory scientists are contributing to the mission.

Curiosity was lowered at the end of 25-foot-long cables from a hovering rocket stage for a flawless descent and landing, beginning one of the most ambitious planetary missions in history.

The $2.6 billion Curiosity arrived dramatically on Martian terrain in a spectacle known as the "seven minutes of terror." This phenomenal landing process involved a sky crane and the world's largest supersonic parachute, which allowed the spacecraft carrying Curiosity to pinpoint the precise landing area that scientists had chosen.  The mission control in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California burst into cheers as the rover touched down Monday morning. Team members hugged and high-fived one another as Curiosity beamed back the first pictures from the planet, while some shed tears.

Two scientists at the Geophysical Laboratory are involved in the mission through their work on the SAM instrument.  Staff Scientist Andrew Steele is co-investigator and Director Emeritus Wes Huntress is a participating scientist on the SAM instrument.

"It is very exciting to be a part of the science team but also very humbling" said Andrew Steele. "Exciting because of the science we will get to do on Mars and humbling because of the shear scale of the effort to build and undertake the best science possible on Mars. It will be a fabulous mission and I am looking forward to being part of the science team posing and answering some fundamental questions about Mars, using the most capable space craft humans have flown to another planet. Congratulations to the whole Curiosity and Jet Propulsion Laboratory team for a superb job getting this far. Game on."

Wes Huntress added that “This is the most bold, complex and exciting mission ever sent to Mars. The dramatic landing is only the beginning.  Now get ready for the adventure of roving Mars and making new discoveries.”

                                         Andrew Steele                              Wes Huntress


Caption:  This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface of Mars on 6 August. The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three seconds after heat shield separation. It is among the first color images Curiosity sent back from Mars. Courtesy of http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/.

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