With its rover named Curiosity, Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet's "habitability." The Homeschool Learning Network discusses Curiosity's landing, with diagrams and the very first Curiosity images!
The scientists at the JPL Laboratory for NASA called Curiosity's descent into the Mars atmosphere an its landing "7 Minutes of Terror" because there were so many complex mechanisms that had to work perfectly for the landing. Take a look here at the diagram, and all the steps that the Curiosity had to go through to set its wheels down on the Red Planet:
All Those Steps Were Executed Perfectly!
From "Cruise Stage Separation" to a Supersonic Parachute, and on to the powered descent with the rover being lowered by pulleys onto Mars, all aspects of this effort were executed perfectly, and remotely, by the Curiosity systems! Watch the nail-biting journey by clicking on the image to the right. Also watch this great slide-show to learn about Curiosity's Mission.
After only minutes of landing, it was questionable whether Curiosity would be able to take photographs that could be transmitted to earth. It depended on the two orbiters that are currently orbiting around Mars, and whether or not they were in position to catch the photo image upload signals from Curiosity. It wasn't long before we found that there was success! Just minutes after Curiosity landed, we had two images:
Photo of the horizon of Mars, and the left rear wheel of Curiosity Photo of the shadow of Rover Curiosity on the Surface of Mars
Soon after that, NASA Scientists received more images from the orbiters, images that captured a view of the amazing, supersonic parachute that helped in the landing process:
What Curiosity Looks Like
Before going on to explore more lessons about Curiosity, Mars and the Mission, take a look at this image of the Curiosity Rover, we'll be seeing lots of these images over the next couple of years!
Explore More Learning Resources About Mars and Curiosity
- Rover Curiosity Image Gallery - Link Available by 8-8-12
- Mars Diaries - Link Available by 8-8-12
- Mars and Rover Curiosity' Resources and Lesson Links - Link Available by 8-8-12
- Mars Unit Study - Link Available by 8-8-12
- Join the Mars Project for Grades K-8 - Link Available by 8-8-12
- Join the Mars Project for Grades 9-12 - Link Available by 8-8-12