After voyaging through space for more than eight months, NASA’s Curiosity finally reached its destination: Mars. The rover made a harrowing descent onto the Red Planet on Sunday night as it began its two-year mission to determine if the key ingredients for life ever existed there.

According to the Mars Curiosity Twitter account (yes, it has its own Twitter account), the rover landed at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time. Or at least, that’s the time stamp given to the tweet announcing the rover’s arrival:

Reuters:

Mission controllers burst into applause and cheers as they received signals confirming that the car-sized rover had survived a perilous seven-minute descent NASA called the most elaborate and difficult feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.

Engineers said the tricky landing sequence, combining a giant parachute with a rocket-pack that lowered the rover to the Martian surface on a tether, allowed for zero margin for error.

… Moments later, 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.

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Curiosity follows twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity in exploring Mars. This rover, however, is twice as big and weighs five times as much as its predecessors. It is NASA’s first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes of the 1970s.

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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