Last night, space nerds everywhere stayed up late to witness the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars while engineers at NASA rejoiced. The rover's still warming up its instruments, but images are already making their way back to Earth, including an amazing shot, taken from Martian orbit, of the rover making its landing.
After years of planning and billions of dollars spent, the rover touched down in Mars' Gale Crater last night and will begin drilling and probing the Martian surface in the coming days, taking the first steps of a two-year initial mission. Curiosity will also be sending back hi-res shots from the Martian surface after its main camera is up and running later this week. In the meantime, we got this super-cool image taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the craft that entered Martian orbit and deposited Curiosity on the planet's surface.
Like we said, more hi-res stuff will be showing up later, but even though this is small (and, hey, it had to be beamed a long, long way just for us to see it), it's still enough to get any space geek excited. The larger body in the shot is Curiosity's supersonic parachute, while the smaller body beneath it is Curiosity itself, with the Martian surface in the background. The image is a particularly cool thing to see because the Curiosity team wasn't even sure if they'd be able to time it right at first.
If you want to keep track of Curiosity at all times, you can follow the rover on Twitter (yes, it tweets). There's also a UStream feed where NASA continues to stream news and press conferences related to the mission. And of course, if we see more cool pics from Mars in the coming days, there's a good chance we'll be sharing them with you.