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Curiosity Lands on Mars

Yesterday, the efforts of 406 NASA team members and 3,500 Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers, with the help of teams from seven other countries, safely landed a one-ton nuclear-powered rover on the surface of Mars. The complex sequence of landing maneuvers required to slow the massive spacecraft went according to plan, at the end of which a rocket-suspended sky crane gently touched Curiosity down. Moments after landing, the rover sent images, confirming safe arrival, and setting off celebrations by team members and viewers around the world -- at home, alone, or together in viewing parties. Gathered here is a collection of images of the landing, along with new images from the surface of Mars. [31 photos]


2012 London Olympics: The First 9 Days

More than 10,000 athletes from 200 national Olympic committees around the globe have gathered in London for the 17-day 2012 Summer Olympic Games. So far, dozens of Olympic and world records have already been broken and more than 500 medals have been awarded. As we pass the Games' halfway point, here's a look back at some amazing events that have taken place in the U.K. over the past nine days. [62 photos]


Curiosity Just Days Away From Mars

More than eight months ago, on November 26, 2011, NASA launched its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed to the planet Mars. Now, after traveling hundreds of millions of kilometers, the landing is scheduled to take place at 1:31 am Eastern Time on Monday, August 6 (10:31 pm August 5, Pacific Time). The capsule containing the rover will experience "seven minutes of terror", decelerating through the Martian atmosphere, as a series of entry events quickly take place, ending with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover gently to the surface. Curiosity is a beast of a rover, weighing one ton, measuring ten feet long by seven feet tall (at the top of the mast), and powered by a plutonium-238 fueled electrical generator. The rover carries ten instruments, including several high-resolution cameras, and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument called ChemCam that can vaporize tiny amounts of minerals and analyze their components. If all goes according to plan, Curiosity is scheduled for a stay on Mars of about 668 Martian sols, or nearly two Earth years, starting in Gale crater. Researchers hope to use the tools on Curiosity to study whether the area in Gale crater has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed. (Most of these photos were featured in a November, 2011 entry, when Curiosity was launched). [36 photos]


Afghanistan, July 2012: Faces of Hope

This month, we present a view of Afghanistan seen from the perspective of a single photographer, Martin Middlebrook. He has spent much of the last three years documenting the real lives of ordinary people across Afghanistan, for a project called 'Faces of Hope'. In 2010 this project exhibited at the Kabul International Conference, and in 2011 it exhibited at the British Museum in London to support their installation on the cultural history of this extraordinary country. Middlebrook writes "'Faces of Hope' is now being turned into a book, an uplifting repositioning of humanity, putting the goodness in people back to the forefront. Afghanistan is a misunderstood and misrepresented country, a place and people devastated by 32 years of continual conflict. And at the heart of this destruction are the souls of 34 million ordinary people trying to survive in this land of 'blood and dust'." All photographs and caption text by Martin Middlebrook. [28 photos]


The Naked World of Spencer Tunick

For 20 years now, New York-based photographer Spencer Tunick has been creating human art installations all over the world, calling together volunteers by the hundreds or thousands, asking them to remove their clothes, and photographing them in massive groups. His philosophy is that "individuals en masse, without their clothing, grouped together, metamorphose into a new shape." He aims to create an architecture of flesh, where the masses of human bodies blend with the landscape, or juxtapose with architecture. Collected here are images from several of his installations as they were being composed. Warning: The following photos all depict naked human bodies, and are not screened out. The nudity is central to Tunick's art. [33 photos]


London 2012: The Opening Ceremony

Last night the 2012 Summer Olympics kicked off with a huge Opening Ceremony in London's new Olympic Stadium, an event watched on television by an estimated 1 billion viewers. Performances paid tribute to British heritage and culture, from agrarian beginnings through pop culture successes like the Beatles and J.K. Rowling. Contingents from more than 200 nations marched in the athletes parade, and the evening was capped off by the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, a performance by Paul McCartney, and a huge fireworks display. Collected below is just a glimpse of last night's ceremony, as the 2012 Olympics are now underway. [44 photos]


The Olympic Flame Arrives in London

Today marks the end of the 70-day Olympic Torch relay through the United Kingdom, leading to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Since arriving in Cornwall on May 18, the flame has been carried through villages and cities, across lakes and mountain ranges, on foot, by train, on horseback, and through the air, from Cornwall to central London. The torch has passed through the hands of more than 8,000 torchbearers on its 8,000 mile (12,800 km) journey. [31 photos]


The 2012 Tour de France, Part 2 of 2

The 99th Tour de France cycling race began on July 1, as 22 teams of nine riders raced through Belgium, Switzerland and France. The entire tour covered a distance of 3,497 km (2,173 mi). Sky Procycling rider Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain became the first Briton ever to win the tour on Sunday, July 22. Gathered here are images from the second half of the 2012 Tour de France. [42 photos]


National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest has just wrapped up, and judges will soon be selecting the winners -- but voting for the Viewer's Choice award is open until Friday, July 20, at 9 a.m. National Geographic was kind enough to allow me to share some of these amazing entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. [40 photos]


Down and Dirty

Getting out and getting dirty in the summertime can make for some good, clean fun. Between mud festivals, mud races, mud bathing, "tough guy" competitions, and outdoor religious ceremonies, people all around the world have recently been finding great reasons to go outside and feel the earth between their toes. Collected here are a few images from our muddy world. [32 photos]


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