Early data shows the Mars rover Curiosity landed with amazing accuracy this week, coming down about 1.5 miles from its target after a 350-million-mile journey, NASA scientists said Friday, perhaps giving planners more confidence about landing spacecraft in tight spaces in the future.
The $2.6 billion rover is on a two-year mission to determine whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting life. It landed Monday and will spend the next four days installing operational software that will give it full movement and analytic capabilities, scientists said at a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Curiosity missed its target entry point into Mars' atmosphere by about only one mile, and most everything in its complicated descent and landing operations - a spectacle popularly known as the "seven minutes of terror" - happened on time, including the deployment of the largest-ever supersonic parachute and the heat shield separation.
"From all the data we've received so far, we flew this right down the middle, and it's incredible to work on a plan for (years) and then have things happen ... according to plan," said Steve Sell, who was involved in the powered descent phase.FULL STORY