Simulating a Curious Landing
The next generation Mars rover, named Curiosity, is scheduled to launch later this year. Construction is nearing the final phases and lots of tests are being conducted on Curiosity. The latest test is a test of the landing system. JPL released a short video of the test.
Curiosity can’t use the airbag system of previous rovers as it is too big and heavy, hence the sky crane concept. Curiosity will be the first spacecraft to use this system so the testing has to be rigorous. You can see from the video, a platform has small rockets on it that hovers while the rover is lowered to the surface. The rockets won’t be able to make this craft hover for long since they carry very limited fuel so they only get one shot at it. Everything has to work perfectly the first time without intervention from us on Earth (Mars is much too far away…round trip light travel time varies from about 8 minutes to over 20 minutes depending on their positions in their respective orbits).
If you want to watch curiosity under construction, JPL has a “Curiosity Cam“.
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