Sounds like a full and excited house at JPL tonight — and that was just the media contingent. Confirmation of the craft's complex soft landing on the surface of Mars came in to Pasadena at 10:31 p.m. PDT, about 14 minutes after it happened. (It takes that long for the communications data to burst across space.) The mission control room erupted in a happy outpouring of emotion by the teams that worked for years to put an American spacecraft back on Mars. The first thumbnail photos flowed a couple of minutes later, spurring a new round of congratulations. The first photos included a shot of the Mars horizon and a picture of a shadow cast on the surface by Curiosity.
The purpose of the Mars Science Laboratory is no less than to look for evidence that microbial life existed, or could have existed, in the area of Mars where the scientists chose to explore. There's evidence of past water there.
The landing was covered live on NASA's TV channel and streamed over Ustream.
Some links for drilling down:
Post updated after landing