Curiosity Mars Rover Lands on Mars, Looks for Life

Mary Roach (photo by David Paul Morris)

What’s the size of a car, but travels 13,000 miles an hour? That would be the Curiosity Mars rover, which touched down on the Red Planet Monday after eight months of travel and what NASA engineers called "seven minutes of terror."

The rover will spend the next two years looking for signs of life on the planet. And it could also bring new life to the U.S. space program. The project was managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, which faces significant budget cuts to operations and Mars missions.

Journalist Mary Roach wrote Packing For Mars, a book about what it would take to prepare people to travel to Mars, and the future of space exploration. She spoke with KALW’s Casey Miner about what happens now that Curiosity has touched down.

"It landed right where they wanted it to and everything went right," said Roach. "And [it's] just this unbelievable human achievement. Thousands of people working for the better part of a decade. To do that and it all comes together in this very brief chunk of minutes."

Listen to the interview below.