- Created on Monday, 06 August 2012 11:34
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NASA's most high-tech Mars rover plunged into the red planet's atmosphere Sunday night in an attempt to safely reach the surface with a complex new landing technique.
This mission will draw on support from missions sent to Mars years ago and will contribute to missions envisioned for future decades.
"Curiosity is a bold step forward in learning about our neighboring planet, but this mission does not stand alone. It is part of a sustained, coordinated program of Mars exploration," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"This mission transitions the program's science emphasis from the planet's water history to its potential for past or present life."
Mission engineers designed a sky crane maneuver, lowering Curiosity on nylon cords from a rocket backpack because the rover is too heavy to use the airbag system developed for earlier rovers.
"We know it looks crazy," said Adam Steltzner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, leader of the team that developed the system. "It really is the result of careful choices."
By designing the aeroshell enclosing Curiosity to create lift and be steerable, engineers were able to build a system that land much more precisely instead of dropping like a rock.