› View Now
How Hard Is It to Land Curiosity on Mars?
On a scale from one to 10, landing on Mars is a 20! Curiosity is the biggest, most capable Mars rover yet, and needs a new type of landing to reach the ground safely. In this seven-minute trip to the surface of Mars, we have to slow down from over 13,000 miles an hour down to zero. Hundreds of things have to go just right.
• hit the atmosphere at just the right angle
• endure extreme heat from friction as it descends through the atmosphere
• open its parachute at just the right time
• use radar to know exactly how high it is
• free itself from the parachute
• perfectly fire eight rocket engines to slow final descent
• drop down, dangling on four cables
• lock its wheels in place just before landing
• and cut the cables right at the moment of touchdown.
And, even if we do everything right, Mars can always surprise us. It’s a big challenge, but a big opportunity – to help unlock the mysteries of Mars.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
› View Now