Robotic explorer Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars on Sunday night, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater.
A chorus of cheers and applause echoed through the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled that it had survived a 13,000mph plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.
Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10.32pm, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow cast by the afternoon sun.
It was the seventh Nasa landing on Earth's neighbour. Many other attempts by the US and other countries to zip past, circle or set down on Mars have gone awry.
The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into "seven minutes of terror."
In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered the rover to the ground at a snail-paced 2mph.
A video camera was set to capture the most dramatic moments - which would give earthlings their first glimpse of a touchdown on another world.
The extraterrestrial feat injected a much-needed boost to Nasa, which is debating whether it can afford another Mars landing this decade.
At a budget-busting $2.5 billion (£1.6bn), Curiosity is the priciest gamble yet, which scientists hope will pay off with a bonanza of discoveries.
Over the next two years, Curiosity will drive over to a mountain rising from the crater floor, poke into rocks and scoop up rust-tinted soil to see if the region ever had the right environment for microscopic organisms to thrive. It's the latest chapter in the long-running quest to find out whether primitive life arose early in the planet's history.
The voyage to Mars took more than eight months and spanned 352 million miles.
The nuclear-powered Curiosity, the size of a small car, is packed with scientific tools, cameras and a weather station.
It sports a robotic arm with a power drill, a laser that can zap distant rocks, a chemistry lab to sniff for the chemical building blocks of life and a detector to measure dangerous radiation on the surface.
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