Curiosity is the biggest robot we’ve ever sent to Mars.

After its launch on November 26, 2011, NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, touched down on the Red Sands of Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. As the largest rover ever sent to the Red Planet, Curiosity’s mission is to search for and record data about environments on Mars that may have once sustained life and to look for evidence that they might be able to preserve signs of that life.

A big win for NASA

This was a huge project, with a hefty price tag ($2.5 billion), and NASA is wondering whether or not they can afford to send another lander to Mars this decade. Since its heyday of moon landings and Space Race funding levels, the US space agency has seen its budget steadily decline. The Curiosity landing is a huge boost for NASAs image, an agency whose relevance has been questioned as private corporations attempt to move their way into space travel, tourism and service to the International Space Station.

HPC servers from Dell handle the Curiosity Rover’s data

This achievement may help remind lawmakers and the public just how impressive a feat that the US space agency has pulled off. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the department in charge of the rover, did extensive testing to support the landing of the vehicle to make it successful. Handling all of the relevant data requires some significant computing power, which was supplied by JPL’s HPC clusters, two collections of powerful high-performance computing servers by Dell.com. The landing sequence and parameters were tested and validated on the clusters to ensure that the most difficult part of the mission, the landing, went flawlessly.

Engineers call the landing a “success”

A good percentage of attempted landings have failed. This was NASAs seventh landing on the planet, and the Curiosity is a big leap forward technologically for humankind, being the largest rover to have set down to endure the harsh conditions on Mars. It’s 10 times heavier than previous rovers, making it nearly a ton. Despite the challenges, Agency engineers pulled off the landing with the rover intact.

Even if space exploration continues its trajectory toward privatization, this landing is a huge win for science, promising to reveal secrets about our mysterious neighbor and hopefully push back horizons about the formation of the planet with useful applications for us here at home.

Image credits: NASA HQ on Flickr

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SK is the Founder of Techdunes. Loves blogging on Technology. Follow him on Twitter at @funmansk. Contact him at : admin(at)techdunes.com

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