The shadow of Curiosity, as viewed in one of the first images sent back from the rover. (NASA)

Now that was fun to watch — even if we couldn’t really see what was going on.

NASA’s Curiosity scientific rover pulled off an intricate series of maneuvers to land successfully on Mars tonight — a huge moment for the space agency and the country, and a massive relieve to the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The best part of the live stream on NASA TV was the raucous scene as Curiosity sent signals and then pictures after surviving its famous “Seven Minutes of Terror.”

“The wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, addressing a news conference after the successful landing.

The news conference is going on now, accessible via this webcast. NASA officials are describing it as an example of American persistence and innovation, and the most ambitious robotic mission ever attempted.

Curiosity will explore the planet to determine whether life could have existed on the planet. Of course, this being 2012, Curiosity has its own Twitter account, where you can follow news and pictures from the Red Planet.

GeekWire’s Emily Shahan is down at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where a crowd gathered to watch the event, and we’ll have more from the scene there in a follow-up post.

More: New York Times and Wired News.

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  • Keith Curtis

    According to Wikipedia this project started in 2004 and the engineering for the hardware and software was completed in 2008. Shouldn’t Obama be mentioning his predecessor?

    • FundNASA

      There are more important things. Sad if all you care about is who gets credit. The credit goes to NASA!

    • Wikipedians for Obama

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ve corrected that Wikipedia entry to note that all work on Curiosity started no earlier than January 20, 2009.

  • Thomas R.

    Great achievement for NASA! Hope this revives America’s interest in exploring space! A collective national interest that spans no party lines or religious affiliation. “[Humanity] looked up from the blood and from the dirt and from the dying to the stars. You had not given up on the idea of reaching out, yearning, seeking a new horizon. And finding a new space to grow and prosper.”

  • Guest

    I’m very happy to hear this news, but I think we’ll be even happier when we all read my new article, “7 Lessons Your Startup Can Learn From the Mars Curiosity Rover Project.” I’ll be publishing it as soon as I can find a good stock photo with the numeral 7 in it.

  • FrankCatalano

    Great image comparing the size of Curiosity to earlier probes. Yes, we basically just dropped, via programmed remote control, a car on Mars:

  • Janet

    Thanks to the Museum of Flight, AeroJet and Planetary Resources for the Curiosity event last night.

  • MHazell

    Congrats to NASA for a good landing. Hope their investment pays off in one way or the other.

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