Cheers have rung out at a major deep space communications centre near Canberra as the NASA rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars.
The Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbulla, about 40 kilometres from the national capital, played an integral role in communicating with Curiosity during the descent this afternoon.
The rover took about seven minutes from when it entered the Martian atmosphere until it hit the surface about 3.33pm (AEST).
Because of the immense distance involved, radio signals confirming the landing took 14 minutes to reach the Earth.
Complex spokesman Glen Nagle says the landing looked spectacular but it was very difficult with the spacecraft plummeting through the atmosphere at 21,000km per hour, before a parachute and then a rocket pack helped lower it to the surface.
Almost 200 people crammed into the Tidbinbilla tracking station's visitor centre to watch a live stream of the event from the NASA command centre in California.
Photo: Getty Images