The Mars Science Laboratory mission is launched toward the red planet on an Atlas V rocket. The ambitious unmanned mission is intended to deposit a car-sized, nuclear-powered rover, nicknamed Curiosity, on the surface of Mars for an extended survey of the planet’s surface. Heavier than any of its predecessors, Curiosity will use an unprecedented means of slowing itself for descent, dangling from a “sky crane” for a soft touchdown after descending through the Martian atmosphere behind a protective heat shield.
Surviving a previously untested landing method involving a rocket-firing sky crane, NASA’s Curiosity rover (or, more formally, the Mars Science Laboratory) lands safely on Mars, at the base of a mountain near Gale Crater. The first images from the surface arrive within seconds of landing, confirming the safe delivery of NASA’s latest mobile Mars explorer. The landing is especially suspenseful due to the “seven minutes of terror” – the one-way time for a signal to reach Earth from Mars – and the fact that the entire reentry and landing procedure takes 14 minutes.
NASA/JPL’s Curiosity Mars rover unexpectedly switches to its “B-Side” backup computer after its primary onboard computer (nicknamed “A-Side”) begins to suffer memory issues. B-Side allows Curiosity to return to normal function after the A-Side issue forces the rover into a low-activity safe mode. NASA identifies the A-Side issue as a problem with its built-in flash memory.