Curiosity Lands on Mars -- PICTURES

National Journal Staff

CORRECTION: A previous version of this gallery included photos that were not taken by the Curiosity rover.

After traveling millions of miles since it was launched eight months ago, NASA's Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars early Monday morning.

The rover is scheduled to spend the next 23 months on Mars to "investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life," according to a NASA fact sheet.

Below are some of the first photos beamed back from Curiosity after landing, a video of the moments leading up to confirmation that the rover had landed from NASA's website, and photos of Curiosity's development and launch.

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These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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This is the first 360-degree panoramic view from NASA's Curiosity rover, taken with the Navigation cameras. Most of the tiles are thumbnails, or small copies of the full-resolution images that have not been sent back to Earth yet. Two of the tiles near the center are full-resolution.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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This is a close-up view of a zone where the soil at Curiosity's landing site was blown away by the thrusters on the rover's descent stage. The excavation of the soil reveals probable bedrock outcrop. This is important because it shows the shallow depth of the soil in this area. The area surrounding the zones of excavation shows abundant small rocks that may form a pavement-like layer above harder bedrock.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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This is the first image taken by the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover. It shows the shadow of the rover's now-upright mast in the center, and the arm's shadow at left.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as the rover landed early Monday morning.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

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One of the first Curiosity photos shows the area around where the rover landed.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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With NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft sealed inside its payload fairing, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rises from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 26, 2011. MSL's components included the Curiosity rover.

PHOTO: NASA/Scott Andrews/Canon

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An in-flight camera check on the MSL spacecraft included turning on lights that are part of the camera on one of the rover's instruments. The green dots are reflections of the LED lights from the unfocused camera.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

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The target landing area for Curiosity is the ellipse marked in black on this image. It is about 12 miles long and 4 miles wide. The blue line indicates a potential route for driving to geological destinations identified from orbit.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

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An artist's rendering shows a "sky crane" lowering Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars.

PHOTO: AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Before launch, Curiosity went through many tests, including this one where it drove up a rampt at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on Sept. 10, 2010.

PHOTO: AP Photo/NASA

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Engineers work on the Mars rover Curiosity at JPL on Sept. 16, 2010.

PHOTO: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

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