Mars: US 4, Europe 0

mars spirit

You’ll have to forgive the highly Americentric tone of the headline, but when I saw that NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” landed safely tonight, just over a week after Europe’s Beagle 2 disappeared after its descent to the Red Planet, I had to let out a cheer. Just remember: I’m a child of NASA, and though my Dad had more to do with Aeronautics than Space, I grew up on tales and photos from Pioneer, Voyager (I was in an auditorium at Langley when the first pictures of Saturn came back from Voyager II), and the original Viking landers.

Tonight’s landing of the “Spirit” marks the fourth successful landing that NASA has managed on Mars, starting with the two Viking landers, going on through the Pathfinder, and (alas) the loss of the Polar Lander in 1999.

This was a heck of a landing, too—check out the 19 step plan posted here.

Update: Susan Kitchens blogged the landing from the Planetary Society event in Pasadena.