"Touchdown confirmed. We're sitting on Mars."
The date was August 5, 2012. After a seven-month journey, the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover finally settled on the surface of the red planet. The crew back on Earth had managed not to flip it, crash it or break it. The excitement inside the control room was unparalleled.
The celebration happened at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, California, just 15 miles from Jay Leno's garage. On a recent episode of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," Leno ventures up the road to see the facility in person and meet the men and women who safely built, launched and landed Curiosity.
JPL operations manager Jim McClure fondly remembers the day of the Curiosity landing. He tells Leno, "I've been here for over 28 years, and that was probably the most emotional evening of my life."
McClure explains that over 50 million Americans were watching on their web servers that night: "That's a lot of pressure for us geeks and nerds."