World Bulletin / News Desk
NASA's Mars science rover Curiosity landed safely late on Sunday after hurtling through the pink Martian skies at the start of a two-year quest for signs the Red Planet once hosted key ingredients for life.
Mission controllers burst into applause and cheered in relief as they received signals confirming that the rover had survived its perilous descent and arrived within its target zone at the bottom of a vast, ancient crater.
The robotic lab sailed through space for more than eight months, covering 352 million miles (566 million km), before piercing Mars' atmosphere at 13,000 miles(20,921 km) per hour -- 17 times the speed of sound -- before starting its descent.
Moments after landing, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle and the rover's shadow cast on the rocky terrain.
"I can't believe this. This is unbelievable," enthused Allen Chen, the deputy lead of the rover's entry, descent and landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles.
The craft's descent through Mars' thin atmosphere, a feat called the most elaborate and risky achievement in the annals of robotic spaceflight, turned out to be short-lived cliffhanger, much to NASA's relief.
Curiosity, encased in a protective capsule-like shell, utilized a first-of-its kind automated flight entry system to sharply reduce its speed before landing.
Then it rode a giant supersonic parachute, a jet-powered backpack and a never-before-used "sky crane" to touch down inside a vast impact basin called Gale Crater, located near the planet's equator in its southern hemisphere.
NASA put the official landing time of Curiosity, the first full-fledged mobile science laboratory sent to a distant world, at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time (1:32 a.m. EDT/0530 GMT).
Curiosity will spend two years exploring Gale Crater and an unusual three-mile (5 km)-high mountain consisting of what appears to be sediments rising from the crater's floor.
The purpose of the $2.5 billion mission is to look for evidence that Mars - the planet most similar to Earth - may have once harbored the basic building blocks necessary for microbial life to evolve. It represents NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes.
The landing marks a major milestone for a U.S. space agency beset by budget cuts and the recent loss of its 30-year-old space shuttle program.
"It's an enormous step forward in planetary exploration. Nobody has ever done anything like this," said John Holdren, the top science advisor to President Barack Obama, who was visiting JPL for the event. "It was an incredible performance."
The exact condition of the rover upon arrival was not immediately clear. NASA plans to put the rover and its laboratory gear through several weeks of engineering checks before starting its two-year surface mission in earnest.
The rover, launched on Nov. 26 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, comes equipped with an array of sophisticated instruments capable of analyzing samples of soil, rocks and atmosphere on the spot and beaming results back to Earth.
One is a laser gun that can zap a rock from 23 feet (7 meters) away to create a spark whose spectral image is analyzed by a special telescope to discern the mineral's chemical composition.
Depending on local weather conditions, the eclipse was visible across a swath of the United States
Google and Facebook have been competing in innovative ways to increase internet access globally and tap into previously untouched markets.
A 14-year-old Dutch girl who sent a terror threat to American Airlines as a Twitter “joke” has been arrested by police in Rotterdam
The legal action is the first to emerge from a humiliating episode for Microsoft, which the software company has never fully explained and has accounted for only as a "technical error."
The widespread bug surfaced late on Monday, when it was disclosed that a pernicious flaw in a widely used Web encryption program known as OpenSSL opened hundreds of thousands of websites to data theft.
For some, increased connectivity has allowed them to see social network and sharing websites like Youtube and Facebook for the first time.
The suspects exploited the fact that some users had the same pin number or password for both credit cards and the loyalty card to create fake cards and charge items earlier this year
The radar is part of a safety system that ensures a failed rocket will not threatened populated areas.
The World's latest solar energy technologies with innovative products produced in Turkey will be showcased at the fair.
Kaspersky Lab uncovered evidence that a few hacking groups believed to be involved in state-sponsored cyber espionage were running such scans shortly after news of the bug first surfaced
Facebook did not specify how many ads will now appear in the right-hand column, though a sample image on the blog showed a single ad in the right-hand column
StoreDot's device charged a dead Samsung S4 smartphone battery in 26 seconds during a demonstration of the product.
Weapons like the electromagnetic rail gun could help U.S. forces retain their edge and give them an asymmetric advantage over rivals, making it too expensive to use missiles to attack U.S. warships because of the cheap way to defeat them.
Google and Facebook generally topped lists of Americans' concerns about the ability to track physical locations and monitor spending habits and personal communications
Anonymous, a loosely associated international network of hackers, said earlier that it would wage an anti-Israel operation, dubbed #OpIsrael, on Monday.