At 11:30, last night, “Spirit” entered the Martian Atmosphere. In the 6 minutes that followed, anxious scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ticked off each milestone, signalled by changes in tones sent by the plummeting craft.
Atmospheric drag, parachute deployed, heat shield detached, tether the lander, retro-rockets and finally, a bounce… then another. The craft had reached the surface. Only 10 short minutes later, it’s automatic landing process had established contact with NASA, via the orbiter to say it was okay.
A picture perfect landing, just 11 months after the not-so-perfect landing of the Columbia Shuttle which doomed it’s crew of seven. By 2am, a mere 2 hours later, Spirit had unfolded itself and its camera mast, and sent back its first low-res, black and white images from its new resting place.
Congratulations, NASA! The next 90 days will be fascinating!