Pasadena (California): The Mars science rover Curiosity landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/1100 IST) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA said.

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Life on Mars? Rover aims to find out

First images received

The Mars science rover Curiosity beamed back its first images from the Martian surface moments after a make-or-break landing to begin a two-year search for evidence that the Red Planet once harbored the ingredients necessary for life to evolve.

Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles said they 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. NASA has described the feat as perhaps the most complex ever in robotic spaceflight.

The USD 2.5 billion Curiosity project, formally called the Mars Science Laboratory, is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes. The landing, a major victory for a U.S. space agency beleaguered by budget cuts and the recent loss of its space shuttle program, was greeted with raucous applause and tears of joy by jubilant engineers and scientists at mission control.

India’s Mission Mars

India plans to send a satellite via an unmanned spacecraft to orbit Mars next year, joining a small group of nations already exploring the red planet, a government scientist said on Friday.

A rocket will blast off from the southeastern coast of India, dropping the satellite into deep space, which will then travel onto Mars to achieve orbit, the senior scientist said, asking not to be named because the project is awaiting final approval.                                   

A spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) based in Bangalore would not confirm the mission, but commented generally on the ambitions of India's space programme.

"After the Moon, worldwide attention is now focused on finding out if there (are) habitable spots on Mars," ISRO's Deviprasad Karnik said.

ISRO scientists expect the satellite to orbit at less than 100 km (62 miles) above Mars.

 

Cabinet is expected soon to clear the mission, according to media reports this week that said the programme will cost about USD 80 million.

The plan has drawn criticism in a country suffering from high levels of malnutrition and power shortages. But India has long argued that technology developed in its space programme has practical applications to everyday life.

India's space exploration programme began in 1962. Four years ago, its Chandrayaan satellite found evidence of water on the moon. India is now looking at landing a wheeled rover on the Moon in 2014.

(Agencies)

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