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Curiosity landing live from NASA's JPL: How the drama unfolded

Constantly updated as it happened

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Curiosity Mars mission El Reg is live from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, waiting to see if the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity as it's better known, will land safely or crater the surface of Mars.

8:45pm In an effort to keep people occupied NASA has been bussing in celebrities to keep the assembled press talking. Geek icon Will Wheaton has been chatting to the press, joking that while he used to pilot a starship this is something else entirely.

Wheaton knows his stuff and is an entertaining speaker, but there's only so many ways you can say how exciting this is. He's also getting a lot of questions on how to use social media, which you'd think the press might know something about.

Wil Wheaton

Wheaton still living off Star Trek role

9:10pm NASA has locked down communications with the spacecraft and no further course corrections are possible. The craft is now entirely on its own and is approaching the Martian atmosphere at around 9,000mph.

9:22pm NASA's making quite a big deal about how long we'll have to wait for a signal from Curiosity. With the distances involved there's a 14 minutes time lag but there's also going to be the problem of relying any signal back to Earth.

About four minutes after landing the Mars Odyssey satellite should be in range to pick up the first images from Curiosity. To make this happen NASA is currently changing its orientation of the craft so it can communicate with Curiosity. So far NASA reports a successful shift in the orbiter.

9:41pm NASA is filling in with its '7 minutes of terror' video. Time for them to wring the most out of it, and it's had more than two million hits on YouTube.

9:51pm Although most of JPL is locked down for the press there are still some interesting exhibits on display.

Voyager disc

Humanity is here, please be nice

There's a replica of the Voyager space craft that's currently heading out of the Solar System. Included is a replica of the gold disc that is intended to show alien civilizations how to find us. While this must have seemed like a good idea at the time there have been some, including Stephen Hawking, who think it might be a bad idea to point out our location.

9:57pm The cruise phase of the mission has now formally ended and the team gets a round of applause. They have guided Curiosity across 35 million miles, with two unplanned course changes and "one heck of a lot of professionalism," according to the mission director.

In line with NASA tradition the team is being fed on victory peanuts, with a jar of them being carried around the team so everyone can have a munch.

10:13pm We're about one minute to first stage separation. Telemetry from the craft is now off and the craft is communicating by a "heartbeat" pulse. The carrier power is stronger than expected.

10:15pm Success, the cruise stag has separated and the craft is turning as planned to put the heat shield in the right place to absorb the friction from entry.

There's a smattering of applause but everyone's very tense. About six minutes to entry of the Martian atmosphere.

10:24pm The signal from the craft has dropped briefly, and now the "heartbeat" is back. It's all looking good so far and we're standing by for guided entry.

10:25pm The vehicle has started atmospheric entry. It's no longer a spacecraft as such. Peak acceleration has been reached and the craft is feeling around 11Gs of pressure.

10:27pm Odyssey is in position and broadcasting, it's all on target.

10:28pm The vehicle has slowed to around mach two and the parachute will deploy shortly.

10:29pm The parachute's been deployed successfully. It's slowing as planned. The craft is about 6km above the surface and is down to 86 meters per second.

10:31pm The parachute is gone and clear. Curiosity is now maneuvering on thruster power at 40 meters of altitude.

10:32pm Touchdown confirmed! Huge whoops and not a few tears at mission control. Now let's see if it works.

10:34pm Odyssey has made contact and is transferring data. We've just got our first low resolution images from Curiosity. It's working as planned.

curiosity images

The first images from Curiosity

10:48pm NASA administrator Charlie Bolden is onscreen, looking like a man who's just won the lottery.

In a sense he has. NASA's Mars budget is already under pressure and a failure could have set back plans for further exploration a long way.

There'll be a press conference at around 11:15pm and we'll get more details then.

curiosity shadow

The rover's shadow

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