At 10:31PM Pacific Coast Time on 5th August, NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover is due to touch down on the surface of Mars after a journey lasting more than a year. Curiosity will be the largest, most powerful and versatile exploratory devices ever sent to Mars, or to any other planet. The engineering and scientific ingenuity underpinning this endeavour are quite astonishing, as is compellingly shown in this short video produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
While some parts of the multi-stage Entry, Descent & Landing (EDL) phase have been well tried and tested before on numerous missions to Mars or on spacecraft returning to Earth, the “Skycrane” – the final step of the process – has never been used before. The justification for resorting to this method makes perfect sense (landing directly with rockets would kick up too much Martian dust which could damage the Curiosity Rover) and the engineering seems sound, but I just sure hope it works.
When the time comes, it will be possible to view live updates from NASA and the Curiosity Mars Rover here.