New Wheels on Mars: The Mars Science Laboratory

Oct. 16 & 17

Building on the success of the two rover geologists that arrived at Mars in January, 2004, NASA's next rover mission will depart for the Red Planet in 2009. Twice as long and five times as heavy as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Science Laboratory will collect Martian soil and rock samples and analyze them for organic compounds and minerals which demonstrate that Mars can or did support life. This sophisticated science laboratory will be delivered to the Martian surface using an innovative new landing system. The spacecraft will start by steering itself through the Martian atmosphere in a fashion similar to the way the Apollo entry capsule controlled its entry through Earth's upper atmosphere. This approach will allow the spacecraft to fly to a desired location above the surface of Mars before deploying its parachute for the final landing. Then, in the final minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft will activate its parachute and retro rockets before lowering the rover package to the surface on a tether.

Richard Cook
Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager

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