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How to Land on Mars: Martian Tech Explained (Infographic)

Various means of landing on the planet Mars.
Spacecraft use multiple methods to slow down enough for a safe landing on Mars. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

To land on a planet, one must slow down from orbital speed (tens of thousands of miles per hour), to a standstill on the surface. Re-entry friction with Earth's thick atmosphere reduces a spacecraft‘s speed enough for parachutes to provide a gentle descent. On the moon, which has no atmosphere, rockets are used all the way down to ensure a soft landing. Mars' very thin atmosphere cannot provide enough resistance to slow a spacecraft to a safe landing speed with just a heat shield and parachute. 

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Karl Tate
Karl's association with SPACE.com goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. Starting in 2010, Karl has been TechMediaNetwork's infographics specialist across all editorial properties.  Before joining SPACE.com, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating  news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Karl on Google+.