History was made today as Curiosity landed on Mars. The rover has begun returning photos from the red planet.
Thanks to a remarkable combination of engineering and mathematics, a NASA satellite in orbit around Mars was able to capture a picture of the split second when Curiosity fell from the skies to its successful landing on the surface of the red planet.
"We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment," mission manager Mike Watkins said. "But another part has just begun."
And in a splendid second act, the rover beamed back its first images from the surface of the planet, including a shot Monday night of Mars' Mount Sharp looming in the distance, the object of Curiosity's own programmed curiosity.
The rover's shadow can be seen in the foreground, with dunes in the distance. And beyond rises the highest peak of Mount Sharp, at a height of about 3.4 miles taller than Mount Whitney in California. The Curiosity team hopes to drive the rover to the mountain to investigate its lower layers, which scientists think hold clues to past environmental change.