Over a year after the final mission of the Space Shuttle, the retirement of the program left many wondering what was next for NASA. The iconic images of a shuttle launch or the view from 180 miles up had inspired imaginations for thirty years.

How could NASA recapture that kind of winning image?

Filling that void Monday morning was the news about NASA’s Curiosity rover. A car sized nuclear-powered rover sent to Mars to traverse the landscape and investigate conditions suitable for life. Its complex landing sequence is an amazing achievement all its own, just to get the rover onto the surface of Mars.

Mars Curiosity video

Launched over eight months ago, the rover’s long journey reached its climatic end at about 1:30AM EDT Monday morning with live streams from NASA TV, giving the world updates on the status of the landing sequence.  Within minutes, images were sent back from Mars confirming that Curiosity was “wheels down on Mars.”

Nothing more quickly improves optimism, dispels frustration and inspires confidence like winning. The Space Agency’s reputation was bolstered and Mars exploration took a strong step forward. The effect of winning can be palpable, and early Monday morning, NASA scored a win.