The question is straightforward: how to get a car-size rover safely to the surface of Mars? And not just anywhere, but to a very precisely defined bull-s-eye on the floor of a broad crater, within roving distance of a 3-mile-high mountain.
In earlier ventures to Mars, spacecraft have either bounced to the surface cocooned in giant airbags or made the trip atop a rocket-powered descent stage. But neither approach was an option for NASA's Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Tipping the scales at one ton, the nuclear-powered Curiosity, a rolling laboratory … Read more