The rover Curiosity landed on Mars Sunday night shortly before 10:30 p.m., according to NASA officials.
The 1-ton rover was launched into space 36 weeks ago to determine if Mars could host microbial life.
A previous mission, the Mars Pathfinder, successfully sent a roving laboratory to Mars in 1997.
Sunday's two-year mission is unique for those on Earth because parts of the multi-billion dollar mission will be live streamed through NASA's website.
"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. "President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030s, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."
The car-sized rover landed Aug. 5 near the foot of a mountain 3 miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover, NASA officials said. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.
Testing of Curiosity's entry, descent and landing was conducted at NASA Ames in Mountain View, and Ames scientists will be involved in the equipment and analysis of the mineral content of the rocks and soil on Mars, according to NASA Ames' website.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report