Mars Curiosity rover cheered on by Leicester scientist
A University of Leicester scientist involved in a mission to send a research craft to Mars has spoken of his joy after it landed successfully.
Dr John Bridges is leading a team of French and British experts in California analysing data from Nasa's $2.5bn (£1.6bn) Mars Curiosity project.
An exploration craft the size of a small car touched down in a Martian crater at about 06:30 BST on Monday.
Dr Bridges said it had been an exciting atmosphere during the landing.
It is hoped the Mars Curiosity rover, which has a robotic arm, high-resolution cameras and a laser, will "revolutionise" our understanding of Mars's geology during its two-year mission.'Happy and excited'
Dr Bridges, who is leading a team from Leicester, the Open University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research, was inside the Flight Operations Centre at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as the rover made its approach.
He reported a tense atmosphere at the centre as they waited for news of whether the craft had survived its arrival on the planet intact.
Writing on his blog, he said: "Now seven minutes to go. Getting very quiet in the room."
Once confirmation had come that the rover had made it down safely, he said: "Lots of very happy and excited people in this room. What an opportunity we have now to explore this fascinating planet."
Dr Bridges said he and his team were looking forward to getting stuck into analysing data and photos relayed to earth by the rover.
He wrote: "We will start the process of checking the instruments. That doesn't have the drama of landing but it's why we are on Mars.
An hour later he added: "More images from the latest data relay. We get to work - linking it to what we saw from the orbital images and describing what we see. What environments on Earth have we seen this?
"Very good news from this data relay - some of the instruments like ChemCam [French instrument] are switching on. Be a while before we get data though."
A first colour image of Curiosity's surroundings should be returned in the next couple of days.
Dr Bridges said he would continue to update his University of Leicester blog as he and his team continue their work.