So in 53 days roughly the rover curiosity will land on the surface of mars, in NASA's most ambitious rover landing yet. In the past with the two rovers that could, Spirit and Opportunity, entered the martian atmosphere like any other probe, under the protection of the heat shield, than deploy when its velocity had slowed down enough big air bags. they would proceed to bounce around on the surface till coming to a stop. Since then these two rovers have entered the realm of legend, lasting far longer than anyone possibly imagined, Opportunity is still operating on the surface which it landed on in 2004.Now with the new rover NASA has decided to be ambitious, ditching the tested air bag system for what is essentially a helicopter winch system, except using rockets. the rover is also bigger and uses a nuclear reactor to power it.
will it succeed?
MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) or Curiosity as folks call it will be an interesting project. It is one of only two projects I'm a bit sad to have stopped tracking when I went from deep space tracking to "local" space. (The Pluto Mission is the other) If that thing's nuclear battery works as well as Voyager's then it'll still be going when we finally land people on the red planet. :)
@novemberalphabravo: I thought that they're doing the helicopter winch thing because it's too big/heavy for the airbag thing to work.
wont the martians think us landing a nuclear reactor on their planet an attack? lol but seriously very cool, next stop manned mission! lol
@will: curiosity is bigger than the previous rovers, but they could have gone with the lunar lander design from the apollo mission, the current design seems like added complexity to an already complex problem