ScienceShot: Seven Minutes of Terror at Mars

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Richard A. Kerr
2012-06-29 13:38
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NASA engineers are finally admitting what the rest of us knew all along: Landing the Curiosity rover on Mars on 5 August at 10:31 PDT by dangling it beneath a rocket-festooned flying platform is just plain scary. They designed this "sky-crane"—along with a beefed-up heat shield and parachute—to slow 3 tons of spacecraft from bullet speeds to a gentle stop on the surface in 7 minutes. Plus their targeted landing zone this time—they are six for seven for Mars landings—is one-fifth the size of previous landing zones. All this will be in the hands of the spacecraft and its 500,000 lines of code. In a new video of Curiosity's "entry, descent, and landing," NASA engineers explain how they think they have solved the toughest EDL problem.

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