Curiosity marks 1 year of exploration on Mars

Washington, Aug 6 (EFE).- The Curiosity rover has spend a year exploring Mars, where after a journey of 567 million kilometers (350 million miles), it was lowered by a crane into the Gale Crater to begin a two-year mission searching for evidence of life on the Red Planet.

In an unprecedented engineering achievement, the 1-ton apparatus descended to the surface of Mars in a complex maneuver dubbed the "seven minutes of terror," following its entry into the Martian atmosphere.

"Gale Crater, I am in you," was the first message sent by the robotic vehicle at a distance of 248 million kilometers (154 miles) from Earth on a mission costing $2.5 billion.

As planned, a giant parachute on the capsule opened at an altitude of some 11,000 meters (36,000 feet) to slow its descent.

At some 20 meters (65 feet) from the ground, a rocket-powered sky crane lowered the Curiosity, which put down its wheels and set out on its exploration of Mars.

In 12 months the rover has discovered an ancient stream bed and has collected enough soil and atmospheric samples for scientists to conclude that life could have existed there billions of years ago.

Now Curiosity is headed for the big goal of its mission, the slopes of an enormous, mysterious mountain that preserves in its many strata of sediment a history of the changing environmental conditions on Mars.

Less than two months after its arrival, Curiosity had crossed the ancient stream bed where, scientists believe, water some 90 centimeters (3 feet) deep could once have flowed.