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Wedged in between the Olympics and the Jackson family scandal, NASA squeezed in a story that could be a monumental moment in human history. After eight years of planning and another eight months of space travel, the Curiosity rover has touched down on Mars.
The rover's first transmitted images appear above, courtesy of NASA TV. They were taken with the vehicle's hazard avoidance cameras, which may explain the grainy quality of the photos. It may take weeks to get each of Curiosity's scientific instruments up and running for its trip to Aeolis Mons, or Mount Sharp. The three-mile high mountain is located in the Gale Crater; it could billions of years of geological information that would explain Mars' current state of habitation. Though NASA wouldn't officially comment on it, there is also small hope for signs of present-day life.
President Obama released a statement via Twitter saying, "Tonight, on planet Mars, the United States of America made history. I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality."
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the landing is NASA's wish to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. Said administrator Charles Bolden, "The wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars."
Curiosity is scheduled to traverse the Mars landscape for one full Martian year, equal to two Earth years, studying the planet's chemical components (rocks, soil, atmosphere, etc) to determine if it was hospitable in ancient times. The trip to Mount Sharp will last one year, as NASA wishes to study the terrain of the Gale Crater on its way to the mountain.
Keep with SUMO as we will update you with images and news on everything Curiosity. You can even follow the rover on Twitter: @MarsCuriosity. In the mean time, raise a glass and rip some shots: we're on Mars. M-A-R-S, Mars bitches. THE UNITED STATES OF SPACE!
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