Tears, yells, hugs, high fives. When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Curiosity rover successfully touched down on Mars Sunday night, fans of space exploration and those involved in the $2.5-billion NASA mission rejoiced across the United States, from Pasadena to New York City’s Times Square.
The Mars rover is considered the most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet, and comes on the heels of privately held space transport company SpaceX making history by sending a cargo payload to the International Space Station.
Is space making a comeback? The primary mission of the Curiosity research project, in the works since April 2004, is expected to last 687 days, culling data and images from the so-called “Red Planet,” a staggering 154 million miles from Earth. Already the rover has delivered various images, including one grainy picture of its wheels on a crater.
Did you stay up to watch the Mars rover landing? Will an increased fascination with space exploration and space travel lead to more funding for NASA, and more missions? In the hopeful words of “Toy Story” toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond!”
Luther Beegle, group supervisor, JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory