After traveling more than 352 million miles (566 million km) through space, Curiosity landed safely inside Gale Crater on Aug. 5, 2012 (Pacific Time). The rover settled down within driving distance of its ultimate destination: Mount Sharp, which is known more formally as Aeolis Mons. This touchdown was no easy feat. Curiosity was the first to ride a rocket-powered sky crane to the Martian surface; the crane then cut itself loose and crash-landed deliberately a safe distance away, to protect the rover.
Mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, erupted in cheers as Curiosity beamed home the news that it had survived its “7 minutes of terror” Martian arrival. Those cheers were echoed by millions of people around the world, who were following the landing live online.
“We’re on Mars again,” then-NASA chief Charlie Bolden said minutes after Curiosity’s arrival. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”