Curiosity, the rover, is not equipped to search for living or fossil microorganisms but it will look for basic ingredients essential for life, including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur and oxygen
Pasadena: NASA's $2.5 billion Mars rover on Monday made a dramatic touchdown on the Red Planet, marking a successful end to the most sophisticated Mars attempt in history, reports PTI.
"Touchdown confirmed," said a member of mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the room erupted in cheers. "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God."
Scientists have found signs of water on the red planet, though it is now a dry place with a thin atmosphere, extreme winters and dust storms.
Curiosity is not equipped to search for living or fossil microorganisms but it will look for basic ingredients essential for life, including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur and oxygen.
Curiosity traveled nearly 570 million kilometers since it was launched in November.
NASA officials told reporters at a pre-landing news conference Sunday that the spacecraft was functioning properly as it sped toward its target.
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance.
The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.
To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater's interior mountain.
Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.
The landing site was 154 million miles from home, enough distance that the spacecraft's elaborate landing sequence had to be automated.