Dramatic landing on Mars!
1 August 2012
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will make an amazing landing on the Red Planet on 6 August! MSL will deliver the 900 kg Curiosity rover, the largest planetary rover ever flown.
Mars Express will join two NASA spacecraft – Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – in sending information from MSL back to Earth. When the craft slams into the atmosphere at almost 21,000 km/hr, it will begin 'seven minutes of terror'. If all goes to plan, the complex entry, descent and landing system will slow the spacecraft to less than 3.6 km/hr. A type of 'sky crane' will then lower MSL gently onto the surface of Gale Crater.
Once touchdown is complete, Mars Express will turn and point toward Earth in order to transmit recorded data to ESOC. The data will then be transmitted straight away to NASA.
The landing will mark the start of an incredible programme of exploration to find out if there may once have been life on Mars. It will also help scientists and engineers plan for future human missions to the Red Planet.