NASA’s most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, touched down on the Red Planet at 1:32 am EDT on August 6, ending a 36-week flight and beginning a two-year investigation. The one-ton rover landed in Gale Crater at the foot of Mount Sharp, a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter. During its mission, Curiosity will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

NASA/JPL ground controllers react to learning the Curiosity rover had landed safely on Mars. (NASA/ Bill Ingalls)
Said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, “Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future.”

Our special Mars Science Laboratory section begins on page 14, and includes information on the scope of the mission, details on the science and technology of Curiosity, and an interview with Doug McCuistion, Director of the Mars Exploration Program, and Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program and Program Scientist for MSL.

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