Curiosity is —but that didn't make the spectacle any less thrilling to behold late Sunay, whether you saw it first-hand from the command center at the California Jet Propulsion Laboratory or at home on your computer.
The images shown here are screenshots captured from the internal NASA HD streaming video feed, broadcast live online.
For a few tense moments at about 10:15 p.m. PST, the command crew watched, nervously, as high-resolution computer simulations generated an approximate descent path of the capsule containing Curiosity.
There were small cheers at various stages of the mission, including the successful deployment of an antenna array, then of the parachute, and finally an eruption at the news that the rover had made touchdown.
At around 10:38 p.m., the first still images from Curiosity reached Earth, and the open rejoicing began.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden called Curiosity "the most sophisticated rover ever constructed" in an 11:20 p.m. press conference. The rover carries ten times the payload of the other rovers previously deployed to the surface of the planet.
On its two-year mission, Curiosity will seek out answers as to whether Mars has ever sustained microbial life. Even more inspiring, however, was Bolden's assertion that Curiosity cleared the ground for the first human steps yet to be taken on the red planet.
JPL Director Charles Elachi vowed that NASA will continue to probe the mysteries of the solar system in the coming weeks, months, and years, and said that the findings Curiosity will bring back are only the forefront of those discoveries.
"And what a bargain!" he quipped. "We have brought all this excitement for less than $7 a person."