NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, completing a 154-million-mile journey, and marking the beginning of a new era in planetary exploration.

Mars Rover Landing: Curiosity Lands Early Monday Morning Space

President Obama released the following statement immediately after the landing:

Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.

The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.

Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.

I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.

Mars Rover Landing: Curiosity Lands Early Monday Morning But landing on Mars wasn’t easy. NASA engineers have actually come to refer to the entry, descent and landing (EDL) of the spacecraft as “seven minutes of terror.”

Curiosity, which weighs a ton and is about the size of a small SUV, approached Mars at about 13,000 miles per hour. When the Martian atmosphere slowed the craft to about 900 miles per hour, a supersonic parachute deployed, slowing the craft even further. But the rover was still descending too quickly to land in one piece.

After the rover separated from the parachute, rocket motors fired, continuing to slow the descent. Then, at about 60 feet above the surface, a “sky-crane” lowered the rover to its new home on the Red Planet.

According to NASA, the rover touched down at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT.

MARS LANDING Space
MARS LANDING
Steve Collins waits during the “Seven Minutes of Terror” as the rover approaches the surface of mars, inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. The Curiosity robot is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and potentially paving the way for human exploration. (AP Photo/Brian van der Brug, Pool)
MARS LANDING  Space
MARS LANDING
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden smiles as the rover begins its decent to the surface of mars, inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday August 5, 2012. The Curiosity robot is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and potentially paving the way for human exploration.(AP Photo/Brian Van Der Brug, Pool)
Control Room Mars RoverCONTROL ROOM
This photo released by NASA on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 shows the view from the balcony of the control rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Dark Room in the foreground, Deep Space Network control room on the right, and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mission Support Area, back left, in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012). (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)
TENSION AND TRIUMPH AS MARS ROVER LANDS SUCCESSFULLY; SPACEMARS SCIENCE LABORATORY
In this photo released by NASA’s JPL, Members Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team work in the MSL Mission Support Area at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hours ahead of the planned landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012) (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)
Curiosity Lands On Mars SPACECURIOSITY LANDS ON MARS
Shannon Lampton, and Charlene Pittman, both educators with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, cheer as they watch NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover land on Mars during a special viewing event at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/The Huntsville Times, Eric Schultz)
Laboratory team in the MSL Mission Support Area reacts after learning the the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. SpaceJET PROPULSION LABORATORY
In a photo provided by NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory team in the MSL Mission Support Area reacts after learning the the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Charles Elachi, Charles Bolden, John Holdren
Charles Elachi, Charles Bolden, John Holdren Space

In this photo provided by NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team welcomes White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren, third standing from left, as he stops by to meet the landing team and to say “Go Curiosity” as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, second from left, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi, far left look on, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 at JPL in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT Sunday night. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)
TENSION AND TRIUMPH AS MARS ROVER LANDS SUCCESSFULLY SPACECOMMUNICATION WITH EARTH
This artist’s rendering released by NASA/JPL-Caltech on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, shows how NASA’s Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dots) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles) that require relaying by orbiters. NASA’s Odyssey orbiter will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth, while NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Rover Landing PhotosCharles Elachi

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) director Charles Elachi presents a can of “good luck” peanuts during an overview of the status and plans for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars Sunday night. In keeping with a decades-old tradition, peanuts will be passed around the mission control room at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for good luck. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Mars Rover Landing PhotosAdam Steltzner

FILE – In this file photo taken Thursday, Aug., 2012, Adam Steltzner, Mars Science Laboratory’s entry, descent and landing phase leader at JPL uses a scale model to explains the Curiosity rover’s Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) during the Mission Engineering Overview news briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars Sunday night, Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Mars Rover Landing PhotosNick Lam

FILE – This Aug. 2, 2012 file photo shows Nick Lam, data controller, monitoring the Mars rover Curiosity from the Deep Space Network’s control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. NASA’s Curiosity rover is zooming toward Mars. With about a day to go until a landing attempt, the space agency says the nuclear-powered rover appears on course. Tension will be high late Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, when it plummets during the “seven minutes of terror.” Skimming the top of the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph, the rover needs to brake to a stop _ in seven minutes _ and set its six wheels down on the surface. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Mars Rover Landing Photos MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission members work in the data processing room beside Mission Control at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California August 2, 2012 ahead of the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. NASA said Thursday all was well ahead of its nail-biting mission to Mars, with its most advanced robotic rover poised to hunt for clues about past life and water on Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. On a two-year journey to seek out signs of environments that once sustained life, the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory and the largest and most sophisticated rover ever built, Curiosity, is set for 1:31 am August 6 (0531 GMT). AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)