Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Curiosity landing on Mars

A recording of the live feed from NASA of the landing of the latest and largest of the Mars rovers along with the first pictures.

Short version.

If you've missed the build up to this mission let me fill you in.

The previous two rovers landed on Mars surrounded by air bags. They'd hit the ground and go bouncing and rolling for quite a distance. This was protection, but it also ensured they'd end up rolling to a low point where water most likely would have run to, once upon a time.

Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. 
Curiosity is too heavy for the air bag landing. The bags would rupture and the rover would smash.  Something more like an lunar landing was needed. Something with thrusters that would stop the descent and land gently. But that stirs up a crazy amount of dust. The dust gets into parts and covers the solar panels so the batteries can't charge. So in this case the machine with the thrusters hovers over the Martian surface while lowering the rover on cables to the planet's surface.

Google "Seven Minutes of Terror" if you haven't seen the video about how it works, yet.

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