NASA rover Curiosity lands; ready to explore

NASA rover Curiosity lands; ready to explore

The Mars science rover Curiosity landed on the Martian surface shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Monday to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, according to NASA.

Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles burst into applause and cheered as they received signals relayed by a Mars orbiter confirming that the rover had survived a make-or-break descent and touched down within its landing zone.

NASA described the feat as perhaps the most complex achieved in robotic space flight.

Moments later, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle.

The car-sized rover apparently came to rest at its planned destination near the foot of a tall mountain rising from the floor of Gale Crater in Mars' southern hemisphere, mission controllers said.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity project, formally called the Mars Science Laboratory, is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes.

The landing marks a major victory and milestone for a U.S. space agency beleaguered by budget cuts and the recent loss of its 30-year-old space shuttle program.

The landing capped a journey of more than eight months across more than 350 million miles (567 million km) of space since the Mars Science Lab was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In honor of Curiosity's landing on Mars, organizations and businesses held special events across the Tri-State.

The Cincinnati Observatory offered public viewing until 2 a.m on Monday.  A $5 donation was encouraged.

Also, 3CDC teamed up with the Astronomy Foundation to broadcast the live feed from NASATV on the Fountain Square Jumbotron for a free, family-friendly event.

Copyright 2012 WXIX. All Rights Reserved