NASA’s new Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars tonight. The best part is that it will be broadcasted live on NASA TV, starting 23:00 (11pm) Eastern time.
Of course, every landing on Mars is exciting, but this one in particular will be spectacular.The previous two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which spend over 5 years exploring the Mars’ surface, used a “conventional” landing – after they entered the atmosphere, parachutes were deployed to slow the decent down and the impact of the touch down was handled by a high tech bouncing ball which wrapped the rovers. After the ball stopped bouncing, it opened up and the rover rolled out.
Curiosity however is the size of a car and too heavy to do that, so NASA devised a completely new procedures – which they could not even test completely on Earth. The re-entry will be pretty much the same, but once the heat shield is discarded and parachutes deployed, the landing craft is supposed to fire it’s rocket engines, hover above the ground, open it’s cargo bay door and lower the rover down on a rope. After the rover is deployed, the hover will fly away and crash away from the rover.
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