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How Mars Rover Curiosity's Nail-Biting Landing Works (Pictures)

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Curiosity in Cruise

Credit: NASA
NASA's newest Mars rover is slated to touch down on the Red Planet on the night of Aug. 5, in a nail-biting display that relies on sophisticated mechanics and precision timing.

The Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity rover, will attempt to land on the Martian surface after spending more than eight months cruising toward the Red Planet. The rover will land inside Gale Crater, where it will explore a giant mountain at the center, and search for signs that Mars could have supported life.

Here's how Curiosity's landing will work:

As Curiosity approaches Mars, the rover is safely tucked inside the spacecraft's aeroshell. The approach phase begins 45 minutes before the spacecraft penetrates the Martian atmosphere. To help with navigation, Curiosity will enter the atmosphere 2,188 miles (3,522 kilometers) above the center of the planet.

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Denise Chow

Denise was an intern at the New York Daily News and GQ magazine. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto.
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