Landing on Mars requires many years of careful planning and research. Illustrated here is the latest craft to touch down on Mars: Curiosity. See how we landed robots on Mars and the pictures they sent back on the following pages.
Because of its size, Curiosity can't do an airbag-assisted landing like other Mars landings have used. Instead, the Mars Science Laboratory will use the sky crane touchdown system illustrated here, which will be capable of delivering a much larger rover onto the surface.
This artist's rendering shows the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. What NASA terms the entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of the Mars Science Laboratory mission started when the spacecraft reached the Martian atmosphere, about 81 miles (131 kilometers) above the surface of Gale Crater. It ended with the rover safe and in good working condition on the Martian surface.
Curiosity's destination: Gale Crater. This composite image, derived from earlier imaging data, shows the crater and the mountain within. Gale Crater is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter, and scientists think it was created some 3 billion years ago following a massive impact event.
Another Martian rover: the Mars Exploration Rover (MER).
Artist's depiction of the Mars Pathfinder landing craft & surveyor being depoloyed on the surface of Mars. See a model of one of the Mars rovers on the next page.
A model of the Mars Exploration Rover, or MER. On the next page, you can see another picture of a Mars robot.
Working model of Rocky 4, a six-wheeled Mars landing vehicle. Take a look at the Mars rover just before it blasted off on the next page.
The second Mars Exploration mission rover, Opportunity. Check out another picture of this rover as it is prepared for its mission on the next page.
Opportunity is readied for launch. How did NASA plan on cushioning the landing? Find out next.
Giant airbags are used to help cushion the impact during the landing. It's time to blast off! Check out an image of the launch on the next page.
Next stop, Mars. You can see a depiction of the rover's decent to the surface on the next page.
A parachute is used to help slow the decent through the thin atmosphere of Mars. See what the impact looked like on the next page.
The rover bounced along the surface with the help of airbags. See what the rover looked like as it came to rest on the next page.
The airbags helped protect the rover as it made contact with the surface of Mars. On the following pages, you can see some of the images the rovers sent back to Earth.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took and returned this image on January 28, 2004. Check out images from NASA's latest Mars robot on the following pages.
The Phoenix Mars Lander will search for the basic signs of life on the surface of Mars. Check out another image from the Phoenix Lander on the next page.
One of the legs of the Phoenix Mars Lander is seen after a successful landing on Mars. See more images from the Phoenix Lander's search for life next.
The Phoenix Mars Lander arrives on Mars. Check out another image of the polar plains of Mars on the following page.
The northern polar region of Mars. See more pictures from the surface of Mars on the next page.
The plains of the northern polar region of Mars is shown. See more of the Phoenix mission on the next page.
NASA believes signs of life could be locked in the frozen soil. For more information on Mars landings check out How will landing on Mars work?