Well it looks like NASA has managed another modern technological feat. They've landed a new unmanned rover dubbed 'Curiosity' on Mars. As a rule I feel a little dispassionate about unmanned vehicles, I still long for the days of manned space exploration. But I have to admit this latest mission was quite daring.
Earlier rovers arrived via combination of retro rockets, parachutes, and encased in a series of rubbery bubbles. They bounced along the Martian surface like a beach ball.
Curiosity would arrive in a much more science-fictionally pleasing manner.
Curiosity rode in at high velocity. She entered the Martian atmosphere with small puffs of guidance thrusters carefully keeping the heat shield facing the fury of friction induced burning. When it had lost sufficient velocity the heat shield was set free. The photo above was actually one of the first taken by the rover as it watched its own heat shield fall away.
Now the daring part the rover was lowered carefully to the surface tethered to a rocket pack. The rockets were controlled enough to allow 'Curiosity' to gently kiss the Martian soil with its own six diminutive wheels. Once the rover was safely on Martia Firma it cut the tether loose and the rocket pack roared away like a child's balloon set free.
Congratulations to the people of NASA for your successful landing and I hope Curiosity meets and exceeds it's two year mission parameters.