A new animation of NASA’s new Mars rover, the car-sized Mars Science Laboratory also called Curiosity, on its journey to the red planet.
The rover is too big to land bouncing along airbags a la its predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity.
Mars doesn’t have enough atmosphere for a parachute to slow it sufficiently, so engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory came up with this hybrid approach, involving a rocket-slowed descent and a “sky crane.”
Curiosity will launch this fall and spend the next eight months traveling to Mars. It will enter the Martian atmosphere careening at 13,000 miles per hour, where its Apollo-esque heat shield will protect it from burning up.
A parachute slows it down a bit before the rocket-powered descent stage. Then the sky crane lowers the rover, something that has never been done before …. just watch the super-realistic animation below.