Published: August 6, 2012
NASA's most advanced Mars Rover, Curiosity, landed safely on the Red Planet this Sunday night.
The mission of Curiosity is to determine whether Mars' environment was ever able to support small life forms called microbes. To do that, it will obtain samples from the planet's soil and rocks that will be analyzed inside its laboratory. The final purpose of this task is to find chemical building blocks of life, such as for example forms of carbon.
The rover will move on the surface at an average speed of 30 meters per hour and will roll over obstacles up to 75 centimeters high. Its energy source consists on a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay, giving the mission an operating lifespan of a full martian year, that equals to 687 Earth days.
Most of the technological innovations for this mission were already used in the landing.
UPDATE (August 6, 2012): The following video, made by CNN's Phil Han, shows the animation of the landing provided by the NASA with descriptions made by Curiosity through Twitter:
By ROM Cartridge. Image provided by the NASA.