POSTED: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 3:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 3:34pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — The most difficult and elaborate mission to Mars ever attempted is now a huge success.
After a harrowing eight month journey through space and a nail-biter of a landing, the NASA rover Curiosity is already hard at work sending back snapshots.
A team of sleep-deprived, nerve-wracked scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrated last night when Curiosity sent the message it had gotten there safely.
An image taken from the mars Reconnaissance orbiter shows Curiosity's parachute as it deployed during landing.
A million things could have gone wrong during its descent, burning up $2.5 billion and eight years of painstaking labor in a split second, but the "seven minutes of terror" that scientists called the landing process was carried out perfectly by the rover, putting it right where it needs to be: In the middle of a crater which holds billions of years worth of geological history.
With the toughest part of its job done with, Curiosity will begin its real mission: Seeing if the red planet has the potential for hosting life.
Curiosity has a life expectancy of two Earth years, but could last a lot longer than that, like its predecessor Opportunity, which has been going strong since 2004.