NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Animation showing the second stage of the landing procedure for the Mars rover Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory). This rover was launched on 26th November 2011, and touched down on the surface of Mars at 05:32 UTC on 6th August 2012. It used a novel landing system, which saw it first slowed by a heat shield, then a parachute, as seen here. The parachute was deployed while the lander was some 10 kilometres above the surface and travelling at Mach 2 (470 metres per second), and slowed the descent to around 100 metres per second, at an altitude of 1.8 kilometres. The parachute then detached, and the descent stage, the Sky Crane, separated and fired retro-rockets to further slow the descent, before deploying the rover. The descent stage then hovered over the surface and lowered the rover to the ground. Curiosity will roam the surface of Mars for at least one Martian year (686 Earth days, or 668 Mars days), studying the climate and geology of the planet, and its suitability for past, present and future life. The first stage of the landing procedure is seen in clip K003 3810, with the final stage in clip K003 3807. The full sequence is clip K003 3820.
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