NASA grabbed its own Olympic gold when it successfully soft-landed the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft, which we call Curiosity. It landed at 10:32 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) August 5, 2012, and 1:32 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on August 6th.
With this major step out of the way, the rover will now spend at least two years investigating the planet.
On the heels of this success, NASA administrator Charles Bolen stated, "Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, 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." [NASA "NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain"]
Bolden added, "This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."
John Grunsfeld, the NASA associate administrator for science, remarked about such how dangerous the descent onto the Martian surface was: "The Seven Minutes of Terror has turned into the Seven Minutes of Triumph. My immense joy in the success of this mission is matched only by overwhelming pride I feel for the women and men of the mission's team."
And Peter Theisinger, the MSL project manager, made these comments on the status of the rover, "Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars. The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives."
The YouTube video "NASA's Curiosity lands on Mars" states, "The Mars science rover Curiosity landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30pm Pacific US time on Sunday (0530 GMT) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA has said. Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles said they had received signals relayed by a Martian orbiter confirming that the rover had survived a make-or-break descent and landing attempt to touch down as planned inside a vast impact crater."