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:
- Curiosity must 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.