Fine Structure

Mars Science Laboratory's Sky Crane

NASA tends to do these nifty dramatic animations of their planned missions to mars and I just watched their newest video for the Mars Science Laboratory. They're planning to lower the actual rover down to the surface from a floating "crane" which detaches from the decent module somewhere after the parachute has slowed the package suitably. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. Don't get me wrong here, I'm a huge proponent of NASA, but it seems like every time they successfully land a rover on mars (and only recently have then been consistently successful), they get just ambitious enough to fail. Which, now that I'm thinking about it, is probably the only way to go about getting things done at NASA.

At any rate, watch the video. It's very impressive. I would love it if anyone with insight into this mission could explain why the rover needs such a gentle touchdown in the comments!