September 1, 2012 Issue

Physics To Go 128 - Mars Curiosity Rover

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Physics in Your World

Mars Science Laboratory--Curiosity Rover image
image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona; image source; larger image

Mars Science Laboratory--Curiosity Rover

As Curiosity executed its complex landing on Mars last August, another NASA probe, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, captured this remarkable image. It shows Curiosity, along with its parachute, descending toward the surface. The magnified view on the right has been processed to show the details of the parachute--that's why the surface of Mars looks so dark. To learn more about this image, click here.

Since the Martian atmosphere is thin, the parachute could not slow Curiosity down enough to land safely. Retrorockets fired, and while they were still firing, the Rover was lowered to the surface by cables. Once Curiosity was on the ground, the cables were cut.

For a NASA simulation of Curiosity's landing, see Seven Minutes of Terror. And to watch the Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission controllers during the landing, don't miss control room reactions.

To see the parts of the Curiosity spread out on the Martian surface, click on this JPL image. For more images, videos, and much more, visit Mars Science Laboratory--Curiosity Rover.

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Physics at Home

Explore Mars: Curiosity

Visit the NASA site Explore Mars: Curiosity to follow along with the Curiosity Rover as it explores Mars, day by day.


From Physics Research

Mars Science Laboratory Mission image
image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS; image source; larger image

Mars Science Laboratory Mission

The image above shows a view from Curiosity's landing site inside Gale Crater; the elevated area in the distance is the crater wall. For more information on this image, visit Wall of Gale Crater. To learn more about this crater, visit The Strange Attraction of Gale Crater.

A different Curiosity image shows distinct layering in Mount Sharp, located in the middle of Gale Crater. Curiosity will travel to Mount Sharp to investigate the geology there.

To learn more about Curiosity's mission on Mars, visit Mars Science Laboratory Mission.

Worth a Look

Mars--NASA Explores the Red Planet: Program Overview

Click on Mars--NASA Explores the Red Planet: Program Overview to see the first close-up image of Mars, captured by the Mariner spacecraft in 1965, and to learn about NASA's strategy for investigating the red planet. If you click on "Science Overview," and then on "Goal 4," you can find out how NASA plans, over the next decade, to study the challenges of human spaceflight.

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