NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is to use a unique system called a “sky crane” to touch down next year on the Red Planet. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have just released a video of this previously untried mechanism under test. (UPDATE: it all worked perfectly, for more detail see how did NASA do it?)
The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is too heavy to slam into the rocky plains of Mars encased in airbags like its predecessors, so this imaginative and complex system was devised instead. Like many previous successful missions, Curiosity is being built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and staff there have created this fascinating video documenting a test of the deployment mechanism.
All being well this will all happen for real in the Martian sky in August 2012.
Update:Curiousity was successfully launched on 26 November 2011.