The pinpoint landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars early Monday went as planned, to the jubilation of NASA scientists. But the budget for the Mars program is on the chopping block, as Washington grapples with debt and deficit.
At mission control, nothing to do now but watch and wait, as the rover and its descent module near Mars' atmosphere and begin to feel the pull of gravity. So far, everything is on track for early-Monday landing.
Back on Earth, scientists and engineers on the Mars Science Laboratory project are busily preparing for the Aug. 5 landing of the mission's 1-ton Curiosity rover. And there's a lot riding on the success of the ambitious mission.