On Aug. 5, 2012 NASA’s Curiosity Rover, the biggest, most advanced craft ever sent into space, landed on the surface of Mars. The car-sized rover will began a scientific expedition, investigating the planet’s geology, geography and much more.
The main goal of Curiosity’s $2.5 billion mission has been to determine if Mars can support life. The results?
Maybe. According to space.com:
The rover found some hints pointing toward past habitability in September 2012, when it rolled through an ancient streambed that mission scientists say probably flowed continuously for more than 1,000 years long ago. And Curiosity sealed the deal a few months later after drilling into rocks at a site called Yellowknife Bay.
Analysis of the drilled samples revealed that Yellowknife Bay was inded a habitable environment billions of years ago, likely featuring water benign enough to drink, mission team members said. Further study suggested the area was a lake-and-stream system that may have been able to support simple lifeforms for millions of years at a time. (Curiosity has not actually found signs of life; it was not designed to do such work.)
Aside from its findings, the entire mission is among the most inventive and impressive feats in the history of science. NASA scientists called the landing sequence alone “seven minutes of terror,” involving a supersonic parachute, a perilous-looking “sky crane” and 76 pyrotechnic explosions. The image to the left, shows the rover parachuting down to the surface of Mars.
Take a look at the details of the landing in this NASA video explanation:
Still confused? Check out this incredible graphic detailing of how Curiosity landed on Mars.