On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity landed successfully on Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory – known as Curiosity – was launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. In the next 23 months, Curiosity will collect and analyze dozens of samples from the surface of Mars with one goal: Determine whether conditions are favorable to support life.
Over eight years of mission planning, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory worked to determine the scientific tools, landing gear, and surface operations necessary to complete the experiments and Curiosity’s mission. Their efforts culminated in a successful landing. Dedicated public servants—some whom have spent their whole careers on the mission—now focus on the Mars surface operations lasting one Martian year, or 687 Earth days.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Program was created to understand the Red Planet and lay the foundation for long-term robotic exploration on Mars. Curiosity is larger than previous robots, including Spirit and Opportunity in 2003, and incorporates the most advanced tools and instruments. NASA plans to study the rocks and soil to ultimately determine whether Mars is or ever was capable of sustaining microbial life.
For more information on NASA's Mars Exploration Program, click here.