The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, used a bold new landing system. The spacecraft’s descent into the martian atmosphere was guided by small rockets on its way toward the surface. This short fulldome animation shows the sequence of the rover’s entry, descent and landing.

Like Viking, Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory was slowed by a large parachute. As the spacecraft lost speed, rockets fired again, controlling the spacecraft’s descent until the Curiosity rover separated from its final delivery system, the sky crane. Like a large crane on Earth, the sky crane touchdown system lowered the rover to a ‘soft landing’ – wheels down-on the surface of Mars, ready to begin its mission.

Category: Astronomy, Solar System, Space exploration
Running time: 1.5 mins
Released in: 2012
Suitable for: KS4, KS5, Adults