NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Animation showing the first 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 in the thin upper atmosphere, as seen here. At an altitude of some 10 kilometres above the surface, and at Mach 2 (470 metres per second), it deployed a supersonic parachute. This slowed it further, then the parachute separated and the descent stage, the Sky Crane, slowed itself further with retro-rockets, before deploying the rover while hovering over the surface. 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 second stage of the landing procedure is seen in clip K003 3809, with the final stage in clip K003 3807. The full sequence is clip K003 3820.
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