There were scenes of jubilation at NASA mission control in California, as the Mars science rover Curiosity successfully touched down on the Red Planet.
The robot survived a make-or-break descent after completing a journey of more than half a billion kilometres.
Its mission is to find evidence that Mars may have once supported life.
“Landing the Mars science laboratory rover Curiosity on the surface of the Red Planet was by any measure the most challenging mission ever attempted in the history of robotic, planetary exploration,” said John Holdren, Assistant to the (US) President on Science and Technology.
“If anybody has been harbouring doubts about the status of US leadership in space, well there is a one tonne automobile size piece of American ingenuity that is sitting on the surface of Mars right now and it should certainly put any such doubts to rest,” he continued.
The Curiosity project is NASA’s first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes in the 1970s.
The landing marks a major milestone for the space agency, hit with budget cuts and the loss of its 30-year shuttle programme.
Curiosity will now be put through weeks of engineering tests.
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